The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - I, MONSTER | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - I, MONSTER

i monster review
Amicus's riff on Jekyll & Hyde.

Review by Jason Abbey

Directed by: Stephen Weeks

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven, Richard Hurndall, George Merritt

i monster bluray

Amicus productions, the evil twin of Hammer, specialised in the same mix of horror and lurid melodrama but with the added twist of being able to pull in some American talent (and Fluff Freeman) for the International markets. This keeps the British end up and could have just as easily been part of the Hammer horror pantheon of monsters as a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde film that curiously abandons the obvious name recognition while keeping the names of some of the ancillary characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella.

The big draw was putative 3D process "The Pulfrich Effect", a process that did not require the customary glasses but was abandoned before release. It's a decision that explains some of the baffling shot choices and in your face effects that feel like a slipshod carnival ghost train.

i monster review

A failure on release, this upgrade allows a certain warm nostalgia for a film that would have been clunky and outdated on release but which allows us the chance to capture some early '70s Cushing and Lee, if not in their full pomp then at least giving it enough oomph with fairly limited resources.

This version of the tale has a more Freudian bent as Charles Marlowe (Lee) develops a drug that has an impact on the subconscious, turning one of his patients into a potential nymphomaniac and a powerful man into a simpering milquetoast. As is the wont of all mad scientists, it’s only a matter of time before he's sticking the needle in his arm with all the enthusiasm of an Irvine Welsh character. Repressed and controlled, Marlowe turns into Edward Blake, a libidinous psychopath with a liking for cane abuse and an ever growing set of false teeth (which due to budgetary restrictions, finds Lee grabbing his face with anguish to insert his teeth in lieu of an actual transformation).

i monster review

Apart from the name changes, this is a familiar and straight down the line telling of the hoary old horror classic. The only real deviation from the template is the lack of love interest/fixation for Jeky…Marlowe. Most of the sleuthing is left to a whiskery consortium of gentlemen at one of the fine establishments Marlowe inhabits pre-transformation. The use of two protagonists may have been down to Cushing looking after his gravely ill wife at the time so his Utterson shares duties with the execrable Mike Raven as Enfield.

We hear a great deal of what Blake is up to but unfortunately, we do not see a great deal. Lee is great at depicting the childlike glee as he embarks on his rampage but very little of his behaviour is visualised. An ugly personality is manifested as an ugly countenance, which hasn’t aged well, but Lee gets maximum sympathy as he forlornly changes into the haggard and ugly Blake.

i monster review

Other than a few early shenanigans with a dead cat that plays like a proto version of Re-Animator, there is very little to get hot under the collar about. Stephen Weeks' directing style is constantly on the move to emphasis a never used 3D process, and the budgetary restrictions hamper the visual effects. Weeks seems like a more interesting character than director (see extras) but this is amiable fare that’s as warming as a mug of Horlicks, and about as scary.

As expected from Powerhouse, a relatively minor entry in the horror canon is festooned with extras including two presentations of the film: the original 75-minute theatrical cut and the extended 81-minute version. Two audio commentaries - one from director Stephen Weeks and one also with film scholar Sam Umland.

An archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the celebrated editor in conversation with Roy Fowler and Taffy Haines.

A short interview with composer Carl Davis. An introduction to the film from Stephen Laws as well as archival footage of Laws in interview with the director.

Add to the mix a substantial (and at over three hours, I use that word wisely) audio interview with producer Milton Subotsky, which is the standout extra on this disc.

The usual publicity and promotional material is included as well as the first pressing containing a new essay by Josephine Botting, Milton Subotsky on I, Monster, an archival interview with Stephen Weeks,  and an overview of contemporary critical responses.

I, Monster is on blu-ray now from Powerhouse Indicator.