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I, Monster (1971)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK ltd

Main image of I, Monster (1971)
35mm, 75 min, colour
DirectorStephen Weeks
Production CompanyAmicus Productions
ProducersMax J. Rosenberg
 Milton Subotsky
ScreenplayMilton Subotsky
Original novelRobert Louis Stevenson
MusicCarl Davis

Cast: Christopher Lee (Dr Charles Marlowe/Edward Blake); Peter Cushing (Frederick Utterson); Mike Raven (Enfield); Richard Hurndall (Lanyon); George Merritt (Poole); Kenneth J. Warren (Deane); Susan Jameson (Diane Thomas); Marjie Lawrence (Annie)

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1906: Dr. Charles Marlowe has discovered a drug to relieve inhibitions, and decides to experiment with the drug on himself. Under its effects he becomes a voraciously sadistic thug and commits a murder.

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Amicus Studios' screen version of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' is a fairly traditional affair, unlike Hammer's less orthodox take on the story, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (d. Roy Ward Baker), released the same year. (Hammer had already made a more faithful, and more lurid, version in 1959.) While Hammer added sexual politics to the tale by having Jekyll's concoction change him into a beautiful woman, Christopher Lee's tranformation from Dr Marlowe to Edward Blake is less dramatic yet more effective.

Lee's performance contributes greatly to the effect. The repulsive depravity of Blake is achieved with the minimum of make-up; the actor's posture, expression and demeanour do the rest. In one scene, the transformation is depicted using only a shadow on the wall. As Blake descends to greater and greater depths of evil, so his appearance reflects his moral decay, with make-up artist Harry Frampton gradually adding more and more physical evidence of his festering soul to his rotting visage.

The application of Freud's theories to the story adds an interesting angle, and clues to Marlowe's evil side are sown throughout the film. We learn that his father used a gold-topped cane, like the one Blake steals, with the implication that he used it to beat his son. Marlowe's female patient's attempted seduction is presumably inspired by her discovery of postcards of nudes in his office; it is left to our imagination whether or not he succumbs to her advances.

I, Monster was originally to be shot using a new 3-D process, which was eventually abandoned, leaving a great deal of footage on the cutting room floor. The film does contain some underdeveloped scenes, but otherwise the editing problems have been well disguised and I, Monster succeeds as a dark and unsettling exploration of the struggle between good and evil within a man's soul.

Jo Botting

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Video Clips
1. One becomes an angel (1:24)
2. Reign of terror (1:15)
3. Utterson's nightmare (1:30)
4. The murder (3:12)
Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
Cushing, Peter (1913-1994)
Lee, Christopher (1922-)
Subotsky, Milton (1921-1991)
Tanner, Peter (1914-2002)
Amicus Productions
Science Fiction