Edge of Sanity

October 1888, the London of Queen Victoria, and ambitious surgeon Doctor Henry Jekyll is experimenting with a new form of anaesthesia which will produce euphoria without sacrificing clarity of mind, perhaps foolishly using himself as a test subject; inevitably an accident occurs and he overdoses, losing his mind and crossing the edge of sanity to release an alter ego who abandons his wife and responsibilities to stalk the darkened streets in search of decadent pleasures of flesh.

Introducing himself as Mister Hyde at Madame Flora’s opulent brothel where he becomes a frequent if difficult visitor, as the mutilated bodies of the prostitutes who work the slums of the city are examined by the police in hope of clues, even turning to the highly regarded Doctor Jekyll himself for insight, the newspapers come to give the killer a different name: Jack the Ripper.

Directed by Gérard Kikoïne from a script by J P Félix and Ron Raley drawing on two parallel inspirations, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the series of real murders which shocked London two years after its publication, Edge of Sanity was originally released in 1989, a hundred years after the events depicted yet tying those two eras together in a sometimes awkward yet often fascinating juxtaposition of period detail and eighties pop culture and fashion, Jekyll existing in world of uninhibited excess and ostentatious display.

Principally shot in Budapest for budgetary reasons though with some exteriors on location in London, Jekyll’s life is formal and constricting, the only colour the garishly draped prostitutes on the cobbled streets, a doorway to the lavish and luscious interiors of Madame Flora’s where any desire can be found, the gateway between them the laboratory where one side is wallpaper and the other white tiles, though as Jekyll’s condition degrades so does the film become more incoherent.

Most every woman in Edge of Sanity either a faceless nurse or a prostitute, the exception is Blake’s 7’s Glynis Barber as Jekyll’s wife Elisabeth, oblivious to his excesses, her husband leading a dual life in more ways than one, visiting bathhouses populated by naked men who parade, pose and present themselves; played by perhaps the most famous psycho of them all, Anthony Perkins was likely already suffering from the illness which would kill him only three years later, and in the harsh white makeup of Hyde under the unforgiving lighting he looks deathly.

Presented on Blu-ray as a 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films, Edge of Sanity is supported by two animated interviews with Kikoïne, one covering his career and the other the film, an assessment by writer Stephen Thrower and, most fascinating, a discourse by Doctor Clare Smith on Jekyll, Hyde and Jack the Ripper in history and culture, suggesting that “fiction was providing answers in a way that reality couldn’t” and inverting the narrative by pointing out that despite the unsolved identity of the killer “we probably know more about the five victims than any other women of that class of that period.”

Edge of Sanity will be released on Blu-ray from Arrow films from Monday 20th June



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