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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne [Blu-ray]

(aka "Docteur Jekyll et les femmes" or "Dr. Jekyll and His Women" or "The Bloodbath of Doctor Jekyll")

 

(Walerian Borowczyk, 1981)

 

      

 

Also available in the UK, on Blu-ray from Arrow, the day before:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Allegro Productions

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:31:15.469

Disc Size: 48,740,792,929 bytes

Feature Size: 28,539,988,800 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.86 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 11/12th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary featuring an archival interview with director Walerian Borowczyk and new interviews with cinematographer Noel Very, editor Khadicha Bariha, assistant Michael Levy, and filmmaker Noel Simsolo, moderated by Daniel Bird

• Interview with actor Udo Keir (11:19)

• Interview with actress Marina Pierro (20:17)

• Interview with Alessio Piero on Himorogi (10:36)

• Interview with Sarah Mallinson on Walerian Borowczyk and Peter Foldes (10:01)

• Appreciation by Michael Brooke (32:57)

• 'Phantasmagoria of the Interior' by Adrian Martin and Christina Alvarez Lopez (14:39)

• 'Eyes That Listen' by composer Bernard Parmegiani (10:02)

• 'Return to Méliès: Borowczyk and Early Cinema' (6:50)

• Theatrical Trailer (1:14) with UK video trailer audio, with Parmegiani music, or with commentary by editor Khadicha Bariha

• Short films 'Happy Toy' (1979; 2:17) and 'Himorogi' (2012; 16:58)

• Reversible sleeve with artwork based on Borowczyk's own poster design

• Booklet with new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and archive materials, illustrated with rare stills

DVD included

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: It's the engagement party for brilliant young Dr Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) and his fiancé, the beautiful Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro), attended by various pillars of Victorian society, including the astonishing Patrick Magee in one of his final roles. But when people are found raped and murdered outside and ultimately inside the house, it becomes clear that a madman has broken in to disrupt the festivities - but who is he? And why does Dr Jekyll keep sneaking off to his laboratory? We know the answer, of course, but Walerian Borowczyk's visually stunning adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's much-filmed tale is crammed with wildly imaginative and outrageously perverse touches characteristic of the man who scandalised audiences with Immoral Tales and The Beast, not least the explicitly sexualised nature of Mr Hyde's primal urges.

 

 

The Film:

A bizarre Euro-kink variation on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, this intriguing film from Polish director Walerian Borowczyk takes place almost exclusively in the palatial home of Dr. Henry Jekyll Udo Kier, where the good doctor is being feted prior to his engagement to the austere Miss Fanny Osborne Marina Pierro. The guest list -- comprised of various dignitaries, officials and symbols of bourgeois respectability -- could easily have strolled in from a Fellini film, complete with a closetful of perverse habits and barely-repressed sexual urges. At the onset of the festivities, it is learned that a young girl has been murdered on the streets that night -- an event somehow linked to Jekyll's insistence that his estate be willed to the yet-unseen Mr. Hyde. It comes as no surprise that Jekyll's infamous potion transforms him into a crazed sexual predator with desires so aggressive that his victims cannot survive... but the real twist comes when young Fanny joins Jekyll in his bath while he is transforming into Hyde, and the formula's malevolent effects are spread to her as well. Before long, the entire affair devolves into an orgy of sexual sadism and bloody violence as the evil is spread throughout the house. Borowczyk has imbued this quirky exercise with a doomed, nightmarish quality, contrasting the opulence of the festivities with dimly-lit, smoky rooms where the lecherous Hyde stalks his victims. Patrick Magee borrows a bit from his arch performance in Marat/Sade as the swaggering "General" who gets taken down a few notches at the end of a bullwhip. Released in the U.S. as Blood of Dr. Jekyll, then later on video as Bloodlust.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

 

Borowczyk brings to this the same bizarre, poetic sensibility which made Goto, Island of Love and Blanche such outlandish wonders, but which forced him into working in the margins of the sex-film industry. He takes the traditional elements of the Stevenson story and turns them to his own surreal ends: the good doctor is transformed into a ravening beast and then stalks the corridors of a rambling Victorian house; the inhabitants find themselves under siege from within, and the threat is largely sexual. As usual Borowczyk exercises his immaculate, painterly eye for unusual objects and settings, and a fetishist's delight in costume (especially shoes). God knows what the raincoat trade makes of it: a film of strange and outrageous beauty which seems to emanate from that place where our fears are also desires.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly, this will be the same transfer simultaneously released in both region 'A' (US) and 'B' (UK). As Michael Brooke stated about Arrow's Day of Anger Blu-ray 'I can confirm first hand that the UK and US discs are absolutely identical: we only paid for one master, so there's no doubt about this at all! Which means that no matter which package you buy, the discs will play in any Region A or B setup (or Region 1 or 2 for DVD - and in the latter case the video standard is NTSC, to maximise compatibility). The booklets are also identical, but there are minor cosmetic differences on the disc labels and sleeve to do with differing copyright info and barcodes, and the US release doesn't have BBFC logos.''

 

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne gets an impressive restoration and transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow.  It maintains the film's grittiness and heavy, naturalistically lit appearance with impressive grain textures and no undue noise interference. The 1.66:1 aspect ratio has faithfully been maintained. The dual-layered transfer with a max'ed out bitrate has supported cinematographer Noël Véry's interesting style frequently with less focused impediments framing the shot. Not dissimilar to its original appearance the image is fairly flat but surprising detail in the close-ups. The longer I watched the more I could appreciate this thick, luscious appearance.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow offer authentic linear PCM mono tracks at 1152 kbps in both original French and an English DUB (Patrick Magee's voice). Naturalistic effects have no range but some depth and the score by Bernard Parmegiani adds a significant ominous/mystery atmosphere to the film's creepy visuals. Nothing but positives here for the audio restoration as well. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being region FREE.

 

Extras :

Extras start off with an audio commentary track that is actually a compilation of audio interviews with late director Borowczyk (conducted by Frédéric-Albert Lévy of L'Écran Fantastique during the film's editing in the cutting room), critic Noël Simsolo, cinematographer Noël Véry, editor Khadicha Bariha, and assistant Michael Levy. For people who only see him as a visual stylist, Borowczyk can be heard here discussing the themes of the Stevenson story and how he built upon them. Véry recalls how shooting began with cinematographer-turned-documentarian Martin Bell, but the British DP worked too slow and Véry was promoted. He discusses how the lighting style in the film evolved from flat to backlit and diffused. Levy recalls that film scholar Peter Cowie recommended Borowczyk who had a reputation for promoting new talent. He unfortunately spends most of his time on the track discussing the political aspects he sees in Borowczyk's work, which leads to some rather dry discussion. The track is often not scene-specific but Bird does address a range of topics while also making connecting remarks for the excerpts. He points out the influence of the British film SIR HENRY AT RAWLINSON END - which Borowcyzk saw on the jury of the Oxford Film Festival – on the tone of the film, as well as the use of Bell and Magee.

 

Two short films are also included on the disc. The first is Borowcyk's "Happy Toy", inspired by the images produced Charles-Émile Reynaud's praxinoscope, while "Himorogi" is a homage to Borowczyk co-directed by Marina Pierro and Alessio Pierro (who photographed as well as designed the sets a la Borowczyk) with music by JEKYLL composer Bernard Parmegiani that utilizes props and other objects belonging to and created by Borowczyk, as well as projected stills of Pierro from his films. Udo Kier appears in a brief interview in which he recalls that Borowczyk initially contacted him about appearing in an anthology short about Gilles de Rais (the historical figure who inspired Bluebeard). That project fell through but Borowczyk would cast him as Jack the Ripper in LULU. Pierro in an audio interview recalls her audition for BEHIND CONVENT WALLS being no more than her being able to tell him she spent a day on a Visconti set and spending more time discussing painting and surrealism. Of Jekyll, she recalls that Borowczyk was offered the project but was uninterested since there were no female characters until he discovered the existence of Stevenson's wife Fanny Osbourne. She states that the title THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKLYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE depicts Fanny as Jekyll's true other half and that he hated the title DR. JEKYLL AND HIS WOMEN (as well as the Italian title IN THE ABYSS OF DELIRIUM. She briefly discusses her six films with him and the perception of her as Borowczyk's muse, as well as "Himorogi".

 

Alessio Pierro discusses "Himorogi" as well, and how he learned everything he knows about filmmaking from Borowczyk and how he attempted to emulate that in the short's presentation of the objects using stop-motion, reverse photography, and transparency projections. Borowczyk's assistant on HAPPY TOY Sarah Mallinson discusses her working relationship with him and fellow animator Peter Foldes (with whom she was also romantically involved) and their attempts to promote non-Disney animation in France before Borowczyk moved on to live action. Scholar Michael Brooke provides an appreciation in which his analysis of the film towards the end of the featurette is less interesting than his adolescent memories of sneaking into the X-rated theater that was showing the film expecting cheap thrills and being inspired to seek out more of the director's work (which at the time could still be found on exploitation double or triple bills as well as film festivals). He spends the middle of this interesting featurette discussing Borowczyk's beginnings in Poland and his move to Paris. He also discusses the myth that Borowczyk sold out to softcore pornography and how his former critical supporters were dismissive of his more financially successful works.

 

Adrian Martin's and Christina Alvarez Lopez's video essay "Phantasmagoria of the Interior" provides interesting context for the film's themes and visual inspirations. Of the Vermeer painting "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter", it is described as the "idealization of domestic love" while also revealing that the subject (Vermeer's wife) was repeatedly attacked by her psychotic brother with a stick (cane) while pregnant. Clips from the film and paintings are used to illustrate Borowczyk's visual style (for instance, the contrast between the women photographed against flat backgrounds and the men within deep spaces). "Eyes That Listen" is part montage of Borowczyk's images scored by Parmegiani and a 2008 interview with the late composer who expresses the belief that the music should not comment on the scene but draw attention to the images. "Return to Méliès: Borowczyk and Early Cinema" discusses the homages and influence of Méliès, Reynaud, and Eisenstein in the film. The original French audio is lost for the film's trailer but it can be viewed with a mix of Parmegiani's music, the narration from the UK video trailer THE BLOODBATH OF DR. JEKYLL, or optional commentary by editor Bariha who recalls that Borowcyzk looked at the film's rushes and took photographs off the screen to animate them in the trailer, and that he chose frames from the rushes for the press photos rather than images shot by a still photographer. The disc's reversible cover and booklet were not supplied for review.

Eric Cotenas

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I have to admit these Walerian Borowczyk films are oddly compelling and extremely interesting with rich symbolic depth. Wow. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is quite weird and not to all tastes - I found it maintained its creepiness throughout and the period-representation almost vérité in its 'realness' (augmenting its haunting qualities).  The Arrow Blu-ray is an amazing package with an important, quality, restoration and endless supplements to draw-out further appreciation and education about the director's methods, themes and style. For those open to Borowczyk's challenging and unique work - this has our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

April 23rd, 2015

 

      

 

Also available in the UK, on Blu-ray from Arrow, the day before:

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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