I, Monster 1971 – starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing – is reviewed by SIMON BALL
TITLE: I, Monster
YEAR RELEASE: 1971
DIRECTOR: Stephen Weeks
CAST: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven, Richard Hurndall, George Merritt, Kenneth J. Warren
I, Monster is essentially Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with a Freudian twist. Set within the late Victorian gaslight era popularised by the Hammer Gothics, Lee plays Dr Charles Marlowe, a disciple of Sigmund Freud who isolates a drug that suppresses the Superego, the moral part of mind and allows the wantonly wicked Id to take charge of the personality.
After turning his docile cat into a vicious beast Marlowe decides to experiment on his patients and succeeds in turning the demure Diane Thomas (Susan Jameson, better known today as the long suffering Esther Lane from the BBC’s New Tricks) into a wanton nymphomaniac. Deciding to try the drug upon himself Marlowe adopts the identity of Edward Blake and starts hanging about in seedy gin palaces, starting fights and murdering prostitutes.
Disgusted with what he has become Marlowe stops taking the drug, but Blake’s personality keeps breaking through leading up to a final confrontation with Marlowe’s friend and lawyer Frederick Utterson (Peter Cushing).
I, Monster was an Amicus production and is an attractive film to watch with good period wardrobe and lovely interior design full of domestic Victorian clutter.
Marlowe’s laboratory has all the necessary bubbling flasks and flaming Bunsens and his descent into progressively more ugly incarnations of Blake are effectively managed with just about the right amount of make up.
Using ideas filched from Freudian psychology as the motivator behind the Jekyll and Hyde story put a new spin on tale, but ultimately the movie does start to flag as it chugs towards the predictably confrontation between Blake and Utterson at the conclusion.
Aside from a young Susan Jameson, another face in a bit part to look out for is future Detective and Power Station vocalist Michael Des Barres as the boy in the alley that Blake picks a fight with. Future Blue Peter presenter Lesley Judd plays the lad’s girlfriend.
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