I, Monster - I, Monster(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2020]Released in the early 1970s, and featuring two of Britain's iconic/ respected horror actors I, Monster is very much more of a grim, brooding & often low-key take on the Robert Louis Stevenson's gothic novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Here from Powerhouse Films is a recent region B Blu Ray of the film- offering a new scan of the picture, and a good selection of new & archive extras.
I, Monster appeared in 1971- it was the 17th film to be released by UKís Amicus Productions. The film was directed by Stephen Weeks- it was his first full-length feature film after eight atmospheric shorts he made between 1965 and 1970. It's fair to say I, Monster is a decidedly glum re-telling of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story- set in the dark & dingy streets of 19th century London, with very much of an anti-hard-drug tilt to the story. The whole thing is well enough shot, though it's very much more about mood & the human condition, and itís more uneasy sides- so donít go expecting lots of gory or pacy-ness.
The film tells of respected & suave psychologist Charles Marlowe(Christopher Lee)- in his grand central London house/ practice he has a laboratory, where heís created a drug capable of releasing his patients' inhibitions & self-doubts- he tries on a few- with mixed result- one prim and proper reserved women offers her self up to him. So he decides to start injecting the drug into himself- this creates Edward Blake- a crude, rough & uncouth man with thinning hair, buck teeth, and dark leering eyes. As time goes on he becomes very much addicted to changing into Blake, but the cost is that his behaviour, when he is Blake, goes from brash & unpleasant, to deranged & unhinged. The only chance of help/ salvation comes from his friends at the local gentleman's club- and largely his lawyer Mr. Utterson(Peter Cushing) - who initially thinks that Blake is a separate person, whoís trying to manipulate the respected Marlowe- but of course, in time it all comes out.
The film is largely a blend of gaslight lit laboratory & Club footage, mixed with murky & grim night time shots of Blake stalking around the streets in his top hat and cap- which is clearly a nod towards Jack The Ripper, but save for one cane attack on women of the night the film remains largely void of attacks/gore. What we do get is a low-key horror film, with a very much bleak & at times grim air- when Lee switches to Blake he doesnít say much, but he does come across decidedly creepy & later unnerving. The whole need to keep taking the drug, of course nods towards more modern hard drugs- and the further on he goes the more bedraggled, wild-eyed & unwell he looks. Cushing is fairly low key in his role, though in a way that makes him more believable as a lawyer in the largely reserved upper-class society of the time. The film original run a short seventy-five minutes, but we also get an eighty-minute version here too- and even so, itís a decidedly plodding & undynamic film- thatís much more about the human condition & how drugs alter it- so do be prepared for that when you put it on.
Moving onto this Region B Blu Ray- and we get a new 2k scan of the film, this is nice and crisp- though due the darker/misty points it still looks murky in places, but these of course are nicely atmospheric which is enhanced by the new scan. We get two versions of the film- an original 75-minute cut, and a longer 80-minute cut- I watched the longer version. Moving onto the new extras and firstly we get a new commentary track from director Stephen Weeks- this is most informative/ entertaining, though a little sporadic- he starts off talking about been a twenty-one-year-old director, and how after seeing his previous short film 1917 he was signed up for the picture. He talks about the sets & backlot used for the film, going onto comment on set decoration, actors and how they were selected, key crew, and more. Next, we get an eighteen-minute on film interview with composer Carl Davis- here he talks about director Weeks, and how his second job was doing up period homes- so his flat was full of old bits & bobs. He moves on to talk about the score- and how he very much wanted to set it in the sonic pallet of the 1900s, he talks about key themes like when the transformation scenes, and the smaller orchestration he worked with. Next, we get around five-minute introduction from horror author Stephen Laws- he talks about the filmís been Jekyll and Hyde all but by name, that the film was originally planned as a 3D film, and how Cushing's wife was terminally ill when the film was going on- so he had to get the milk train each morning from his home.
Next, we get a good selection of archive extras- first is a second commentary track- this was recorded in 2005 and features Weeks & film scholar Sam Umland. We have a seventy-five-minute audio interview with the film's editor Peter Tanner, a one hundred & eighty-one-minute audio interview with the film's famed producer Milton Subotsky. An on-camera sixteen-minute interview with Weeks from 1998, Kim Newman and David Flint commenting on the films trailer, image, and publicity gallery- with the final/ finished release featuring a thirty-six-page booklet with a new essay, an archive interview with Weeks, contemporary critical response to the film, and credits.
After seeing & been very familiar with much of Amicus filmography it was great to finally see I, Monster. And while it's not as memorable & impactful as the companies Portmanteau horror films- itís a nicely low-key & moody take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, and of course itís always great to see Lee & Cushing acting together. As always Powerhouse Films have done a great job with their Blu Ray release of the film, with a nice new scan & a good selection of old & new extras.