Doctor Jekyll

celluloid consommé
4 min readMar 27, 2024


For Hammer Horror’s 9th new film upon returning to the world (in somewhat of a re-re-re-awakening thanks to new CEO John Gore), they take on a classic story they’ve done before in true Hammer fashion. Joe Stephenson takes on an adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, with Eddie Izzard taking up the titular role in Doctor Jekyll.

It becomes clear very early on that Jekyll is entirely a vessel for Izzard. The intended dramatics and attempted scares don’t come to the peaks the film clearly wants to reach, no matter how overzealous Blair Mowat’s score is. Opposite Dr. Nina Jekyll for the duration is Rob (Scott Chambers), a recently released ex-con and recovering addict hired on as an assistant to Jekyll as her health wanes.

A recent retiree from the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals, Jekyll struggles with her own physical & mental health. While Rob hardly seems right for the job he is motivated to see his infant daughter, born while he was imprisoned and supposedly living under bad conditions with her birth mother. As Rob and Dr. Jekyll interact they bounce off each other somewhat naturally despite the clear nature of the bare-bones script, but this is something that Hammer pictures have always excelled at…historically.

It has been a while, and with Stephenson’s effort of dusting off the cobwebs in revisiting a bread-and-butter Hammer title we run into some disappointment, sure. But it’s mixed with a confidence that tells us Hammer will press on as it always has, for even in its heyday they’ve churned out some duds alongside bonafide classics. The character and mannerisms of Rob feel so against the grain of what we’re used to in legacy retellings of classic horror tales at first. But Rob’s personality warms once Izzard coaxes something out of the performer Chambers and the film is better for it.

There’s something in Rob’s transformation that manifests more interestingly than Jekyll’s own, or something that could manifest more naturally if it weren’t almost entirely buried in favor Jekyll taking the spotlight. There’s the nagging obligation to re-introduce Dr. Jekyll’s famous catalyst for transformation which aligns more on the nose of substance abuse and dependence, a history which she and Rob share despite how separate they are.

What becomes buried is an artful contrast of Rob and Nina standing as strongly as the divide between Jekyll and Hyde, sitting atop it a begrudging need to re-establish an origin story of how this particular Jekyll came to know a particular Hyde. But we can forget how Hammer can lose their own stories in the telling even in their golden age. But the threads intended to strengthen and make stand apart from other adaptations are still there, although faint underneath both a triumphant return and corrective casting of Izzard (citing the problematic & transmisogynistic 1971 film Doctor Jekyll & Sister Hyde) to welcome her into the Hammer fold. As stalwart regulars of Hammer Productions like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Jimmy Sangster, Eddie Izzard more than deserves a spot among its Mount Rushmore of frequent collaborators (pardoning the Yank expression).

If anything Doctor Jekyll seems like an official onboarding for Izzard into the halls of Hammer. For a lot of the production company’s output its what the performers do with the thin story, as it’s almost meant to be a jumping off point to make the characters the most compelling aspect of the films. Perhaps it was in realizing Chambers couldn’t match Izzard’s presence, relegating him to react to Jekyll & Hyde rather than challenge her as an agent capable of creation so damning as herself (Jekyll or Hyde, in this case) that the film’s final moment come as sort of a shock — but then we remember, as it’s been so long since a proper Hammer picture, that shock is the trick employed best by the studio. It’s in this revelation that proves, despite Hammer’s flimsy approaches to genre, its investments have always been the same and the returns are yet still in the public’s interest.