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Film / I, Monster

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"Now, this might sting a bit..."
A 1971 Amicus Productions horror film. Dr. Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee) is a renowned psychologist in 1906 in England. Spurred by debates between his colleague Dr. Hastie Lanyon (Richard Hurndall) and lawyer Frederick Utterson (Peter Cushing) about whether human beings are born good or evil or made that way through their life's experiences, Marlowe takes it upon himself to experiment with the idea.

He invents a serum which he injects himself with in the hopes of separating his evil half from his good... but instead it simply changes his personality into that of a completely different individual, the unpredictably volatile and sadistic Edward Blake (Lee again, with minimal makeup). "Blake" begins committing horrible crimes throughout London, and it's up to Utterson to stop him.

If that plot sounds familiar, it's because I, Monster is an adaptation The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and rather faithfully, too... apart from the rampant Adaptation Name Changes going on. Not to mention a completely new title. Both the new title and the name changes were so people going in would not know the, now well-known, plot twist of the original story.

Tropes used in this novel:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Dr. Henry Jekyll is Dr. Charles Marlowe, Edward Hyde is Edward Blake and Gabriel John Utterson is Frederick Utterson. Only Dr. Lanyon and Poole the butler keep their full names from the novel. Jekyll and Hyde regained their original names in the Italian dub, thus defeating the purpose of the name change in the first place.
  • Cane Fu: Blake's preferred method of hurting or killing people is to bash them repeatedly with a cane he stole from a shop.
  • Collector of the Strange: Dr. Marlowe has a two-headed baby preserved in a block of lucite in his lab.
  • Death by Adaptation: Blake kills Poole fearing he would divulge his secret.
  • Demoted to Extra: Not as much as in other films, especially the 1931 film (where poor Utterson had just one scene!), but with Jekyll & Hyde adaptations' tendency to focus on the doctor and his alter-ego, Utterson is relegated to a supporting role. An important supporting role, but a supporting role nonetheless.
  • Destination Defenestration: At the end, Blake tries to push Utterson out a window to his death, but fails.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Considering how tweaked Blake seems to be after injecting himself with the Fantastic Drug, much of the story plays like a metaphor for extreme drug addiction driving the addict to become a different person and commit harmful acts.
  • Establishing Character Moment: One of the first things Blake does upon coming into existence is to grab a chemistry retort, hold it by the neck like a club, and mime hitting someone with it while grinning insanely.
  • Evil Is Petty: Blake goes out of his way to follow and murder a woman who spurned his affections in a pub.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Blake starts out looking exactly like Marlowe, just with a different name and personality. However, as the film progresses, and the more evil acts he commits, the more physically repugnant Blake becomes.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Marlowe's laboratory is a treasure trove of Victorian-era lab glassware.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It sure is easy to set Mr. Blake off.
  • Hero Antagonist: Utterson is out to stop the murderous Mr. Blake at any cost.
  • I Am a Monster: Not necessarily in the story itself, but definitely invoked in the title.
  • Improvised Weapon: A retort gripped like a club, but never really used as such. Blake was just wondering what it'd be like to smash it over someone's head.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: The names have been changed, but it's very much a story of this type.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Utterson has a pet cat.
  • Man on Fire: During his fight with Utterson, Blake's cape goes into the fireplace and sets him ablaze.
  • Old Retainer: Poole, as usual.
  • Parental Abuse: Marlowe's father used to beat him using a cane.
  • Playing with Syringes: Unlike most Jekyll & Hyde adaptations which follow the book's example of having the doctor drink his concoction, Marlowe injects it into himself. A shot of a crazed Blake holding a hypodermic needle was used prominently in advertising, including on the DVD cover seen above.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Marlowe chooses to test his serum on himself rather than his patients. He does initially use it on some test subjects besides himself, but quickly realizes it's irresponsible and unethical.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Blake smashes the mirror in Marlowe's lab in a fit of rage at one point.
  • Slasher Smile: Blake. All the time. To the point where it's a wonder anyone trusts him at all, considering he just looks like someone who wants to eat your skin.
  • Staircase Tumble: After catching on fire, Blake falls down the stairs in Utterson's house.
  • That Poor Cat: A depressing variant. Marlowe tests his formula on his cat, which promptly goes berserk and attacks him. He ends up beating it to death with a fireplace poker (mercifully off-screen), and one piteous little meow before Marlowe delivers the finishing blow suggests the poor creature ended up Dying As Itself.
  • This Was His True Form: Blake, now hideous beyond belief because Evil Makes You Ugly, takes a fatal tumble down a flight of stairs while fighting with Utterson. In death, his face returns to that of Charles Marlowe.
  • Truer to the Text: The name changes aside, it's a lot closer to the source material than most other movies.
  • You Are What You Hate: Marlowe's father used to beat him with his cane when he was a child. One of the first things he does upon becoming Mr. Blake is to steal a cane and start using it as a weapon to hit people with, doing to them what his father did to him.