Tuesday, 22 May 2012



Appropriately enough, I'm in two minds about this film: it's one of those movies that I happily accept isn't particularly good, but I confess I rather like it anyway. In the late 1980s, Gallic smut merchant Gerard Kikoine, his CV groaning under the weight of such titles as Sweet Young Girls, Weekend Orgy and Hard Erections, made a sudden switch away from porno: he hooked up with Harry Alan Towers and started making proper exploitation movies, including the messy Buried Alive with Donald Pleasence, Robert Vaughn and John Carradine, and this ludicrously overdone but enjoyable retelling of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde in which Anthony Perkins goes absolutely bonkers. And then, mysteriously, he just stopped (apart from one episode of a long-running French detective show). Which, on the basis of this movie, I think is a pity.

Edge Of Sanity (which I first saw at the Scala at their 1989 New Years Day horror preview event) has Anthony Perkins as respectable Dr Jekyll: married to Glynis Barber, dedicated, hard-working, and currently devising a new and more effective anaesthetic. But while experimenting in his unfeasible huge basement laboratory, he ingests a highly concentrated form of his new serum, and turns into Mr Hyde thanks mainly to liberal application of eyeliner, coloured filters and the camera suddenly filming everything at a 30-degree angle. He starts frequenting an absurdly vast and opulent brothel, and murders prostitutes in the street. But how long before the ineffective police catch this Ripper, or his devoted wife discovers his secret?

Though Jekyll's experimental compound is almost certainly supposed to be cocaine (thus turning Edge Of Sanity into a hysterical anti-drugs propaganda film), Hyde's behaviour here is more likely psychological in origin: due to being viciously belted as a child after watching his father get off with a prostitute during a raging thunderstorm (presumably only included because they wanted to start the movie off with some pre-credits sex and violence). It's a film in two distinct styles: the Jekyll sections are generally pretty restrained and have the feel of period Hammer about them, handsomely mounted with opulent production design and a lovely orchestral score, but when Jekyll goes tonto the film does as well. Dutch angles, coloured lights, rampaging sex scenes, and Anthony Perkins pulling unhinged faces: frankly, when it and he go over the top it's much more fun.

While watching it I realised it's a long time since I saw Ken Russell's Crimes Of Passion (but it's now on my rental queue for an urgent rewatch) in which Perkins also plays a maniac stalking a prostitute, and it's probably a closer point of comparison than the obvious Psycho or, indeed, the numerous other versions of Jekyll And Hyde. Yes, Edge Of Sanity is absolutely and indisputably no kind of forgotten and neglected masterpiece. The bottom line is that I enjoyed seeing it again more than I expected, though admittedly a bit more than it really deserves.


Close to the edge:

1 comment:

tonymoviebuff said...

Edge Of Sanity is a delightfully perverse revamp of the often told Robert Louis Stevenson classic, the scenes involving perkin's groping bare hooker buttocks was hilarious!