Kenneth J. Warren
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I, Monster (1971)
13th Aug 07
Victorian doctor Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee) adores the work of Sigmund Freud. So struck by the idea that everyone has an alter-ego, Marlowe has produced a serum that when injected into a subject, it allows their inner-self to pop to the foreground.
After testing the drug on his cat, Marlowe uses it again, first changing a repressed woman patient into a 'wanton gagging for a piece of the action' minx, and an aggressive client into one who is meek and mild.
Soon Marlowe is ready to experiment with the drug on himself, unleashing his inner beast. With each injection Marlowe becomes a little uglier, his alter-ego known as Mr. Blake, a man of a murderous bent. Marlowe soon becomes to understand that once the beast is released from its cage that it isn’t that easy to lock the bugger back up again.
For this reviewer, watching anything with snotty old Christopher Lee poncing about the screen is akin to having a liquid arse and a ring of fire following a night on the beer and curry. It seems like a good idea at the time but the consequences can be just awful. With that in mind, this reviewer’s stomach and sphincter tightened in dread when another Lee monstrosity plopped through his letterbox for reviewing. Sure, not everything the guy makes is that bad but more often than not he just makes a film just so damn difficult to sit through even when the film is a corker.
Seeing that the movie in question was trim, with an easier-to-cope-with running time of just seventy odd minutes, I settled down with Imodium Instants to hand and an eye on the toilet door for comfort if needs got too bad. Fortunately for the bowels I, Monster made for an entertaining and relatively painless viewing. And dare one say it but Lee was not just ok in the dual roles of Marlowe / Blake, but he’s actually on top form especially when he switches to the naughtier character of Blake.
There is some amusement to be had with the make-up Lee wears when he becomes Blake. The teeth and false nose all look a little too much like a bad disguise that Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau would have worn causing some unintentional sniggering.
It’s pleasing for that for a movie of its time I, Monster launches straight into the story, setting things up and rolling almost immediately. One moment Marlowe is there at the men’s club gobbing off and putting out some ideas to his pals before popping home and beating his behaviour-changed cat to death. Soon Marlowe is regularly injecting himself before popping out for a night’s entertainment that could cover anything from trampling a young girl for the fun of it, to pursuing a lady who spurned his advances down the local.
Peter Cushing, like Lee in one of his better performances, provides suitable support as the questioning lawyer friend Frederick Utterson who susses that all is not as it might seem with his men’s room buddy Marlowe.
During the film there is the odd moment or two when the camera chooses rather bizarrely to duck behind the bits and bobs in Marlowe’s laboratory. The reason for this was that when the production started filming the intention was to make I, Monster in 3-D. Altough the idea was soon dropped, the footage remained in.
Debuting feature director Stephen Weeks, just a wee twenty-two years old at the time of filming, makes the most of his limited budget and captures the Victorian setting well, masking the lack of sets / locations with nifty camera-work and quick pacing. It is also, despite the change of names for Lee’s characters, the most accurate telling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My Hyde’ that this reviewer has seen.
Surprisingly, considering his solid work here, Weeks’ career went on to be neither interesting nor significant with his last feature being the 1984 vehicle Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Heard of it? I didn’t think so.
DVD Extras – If ‘Scene Selection’ rocks your world then you’re going to be well made up with the extra feature here. If you were looking for any extra, like a commentary for example, you’re stuffed!
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