I, Monster (1971) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January and the “31 Days of British Horror” in March , Jules is at it again in May, treating us to the continuation of his chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.

Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing
Director: Steven Weeks

An Amicus Production, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in an adaptation of Dr Jeckyl And Mr Hyde? How good does that sound? In fact, with such a top-flight combination of talent, you’d be hard-pushed not to come away with something special.

Or so you would think.

It would be unfair to call I, Monster a bad film, but I would struggle to call it a particularly good film either.

Freudian physician Dr. Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee) develops an experimental drug designed to tap into man’s subconscious. After testing the chemical on a housecat and several patients, the quiet and introverted Marlowe tales the bold step of injecting himself with the fluid, setting loose his Id.

Now transformed into the more bestial and thoroughly uninhibited Mr Blake, the man who was once Marlowe spends his time renting a very low-end flat, which he uses as a base to court prostitutes and get into fights with his signature gold-tipped walking cane.

The freedom that Blake offers soon becomes addictive to Marlowe, with the transformations happening more frequently and eventually naturally without need for the drug. Worse, Blake is becoming more animalistic and more brutal, gleefully relishing in his freedom to let his Id have control…

It goes without saying that there’s a great film in here somewhere. Robert Louis Stevenson’s story is a time-proven classic, so all the heavy lifting script-wise had been done already. As for casting, you can’t go wrong with Cushing and Lee. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

Christopher Lee’s Marlowe is one of the problems here. The great man is giving one of his aloof and staid performances, which doesn’t exactly endear you to the doomed scientist. It’s not a bad reading, but it certainly limits any audience identification somewhat.

It does fit with the stuffy, academic world he lives in though. They’re plenty (even too many) scenes of gentlemen sitting around the club with brandy and cigars discussing their ideas and as realistic as it probably is for that Edwardian era, it’s fairly tedious at points too.

As ever, Peter Cushing does well, this time as longtime friend and colleague Frederick Utterson, blissfully unaware that Blake and Marlowe are one and the same and suspecting the mysterious Blake of blackmailing Marlowe. It’s his attempts to intercede on Marlowe’s behalf that carry the film onto its conclusion, only for it to end in categorically the weakest Lee/Cushing final conflict ever. If anything, the sheer mediocrity of it only serves to sum up what a dreary adaptation this is.

22 year-old director Stephen Weeks made his feature debut on this and intended it to be shown in 3D using the Pulfrich effect, but the idea was abandoned mid-filming. You can take his inexperience into account, but perhaps more focus on making a taut horror film with the considerable resources he had at hand instead of being distracted by gimmicks might have made all the difference with I, Monster…

Rating: 2/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

1 Comment on I, Monster (1971) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

  1. All of Christopher lee/Peter Cushing films are awesome and great performances by these 2 great legends.

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