Edge of Sanity
Anthony Perkins builds upon his legendary status as cinema’s seminal psycho in Edge of Sanity, a delirious conflation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic horror novella ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and Jack the Ripper’s real-life reign of terror over Victorian London.
When his experiments into a powerful new anaesthetic go hideously awry, respected physician Dr Jekyll (Perkins) takes off into the night, casting aside the shackles of upper-class propriety as he disappears into the shadowy decadent demimonde of Whitechapel in pursuit of sensual pleasures under the guise of ‘Mr Hyde’. As his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) passes her time in charitable work, rehabilitating the district’s fallen women, Hyde is drawn into an escalating cycle of lust and murder that seems to know no bounds.
Produced by exploitation maestro Harry Alan Towers (The Face of Fu Manchu, Count Dracula) and directed with a hallucinogenic intensity by Gérard Kikoïne (Lady Libertine, Buried Alive), Edge of Sanity plunges the viewer into a labyrinth of depravity from which there is no escape.
Gérard Kikoïne’s 1989 film Edge of Sanity receives a new Blu-ray edition from Arrow Video. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.
To my utter shock Arrow has gone out of its way and given the film a brand-spanking-new 2K restoration taken from a 4K scan of the original negative, and the end results are remarkable. There's a lot of positive things to say about this presentation but what stood out especially were the colours, which look incredibly vivid and bold with superb saturation. Red can be a dominant colour in the film, specific scenes laced in it, and reds come out looking clean and bold, never noisy, with shocking range in the shadows. There are also a number of blue tinted sequences that have a wonderful pop to them, and they too show wide range in the shadows. Whites come out looking clean and black levels are deep and inky without eating up details.
The restoration has cleaned this up wonderfully, only a few very minor blemishes popping up here and there. The digital encode also looks superb, delivering the film’s grain perfectly leading to a clean rendering of every fine detail without issue. Dated aspects of the film aside, it almost looks like it could have shot recently.
I was expecting a dated transfer and presentation so this ended up being a great little surprise. I haven’t seen the previous editions for this film (Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray or MGM’s DVD) but compared to clips of the film found within some of this disc’s archival features, which are all clearly from a very dated master, this new presentation offers a stunner of an upgrade.
The film’s soundtrack is presented in lossless 2.0 PCM stereo. The mix is fine enough for the type of film this is, background effects and such panning and moving effectively between the speakers. Music swells nicely from lows through to the highs and never sounds distorted or edgy while dialogue is clear and lifelike.
Though I can’t say I have heard much about the film since it was released back in 1989 I would have to assume it has grown a decent sized cult following based on how Arrow has gone out of their way and pulled together several features, old and new. Writer David Flint and author/filmmaker Sean Hogan take the opportunity through a new audio commentary to talk about the film’s rather bizarre production history and offer up a bit of defense for the finished product. The production is an interesting one, a Jack the Ripper/Jekyll and Hyde hybrid of a film put together by a team of people with a background in adult/erotic films that was filmed in Budapest (standing in for London), and they cover every detail they can. Even now the film pushes some boundaries so I can’t say I was surprised to learn from the track that it had to deal with censorship when it was released (the full cut of the film has been available since the DVD and is what is offered here), and it was also no surprise to hear about how the film’s very European sensibilities didn’t clash with North American audiences. What also didn’t clash well with audiences and critics alike was the bizarre look and style of the film, which threw modern touches and fashions into its Victorian setting, and this is the area most of the track’s defense for the film is focused, pushing that the director uses the more modern look to distinguish between the Jekyll and Hyde segments in the film.
The conversation that results between the two is mostly engaging and informative with a good section on the history of Jekyll/Hyde and Jack the Ripper films. The knowledge present can be impressive for what I feel is a largely forgotten film, but I can’t say the track really sells me on the positive attributes they insist are there. In talking about the film’s modern elements Alex Cox’s Walker naturally comes up in comparison, that film notoriously breaking the rules for a period piece by throwing in Coke bottles and issues of Newsweek (amongst many other things) with a flair for the dramatic in attempt to draw parallels between the actions depicted in the film and the the States' involvement in South America during the 80's. The argument is made here that director Kikoïne is possibly doing something similar, but I didn't feel they entirely sell it since they don’t get too deep into what the film may be trying to say in drawing parallels between the depicted period and the time of the film’s release. Consequently, the track didn't make me a new fan of the film, but I still enjoyed listening to it.
This edition also features two interviews with director Gérard Kikoïne, both recorded in 2021 for what appears to be the German Blu-ray edition. The first, running around 22-minutes, ends up being a career overview where the filmmaker explains how he worked his way into the industry and came to make erotic pictures and horror films like Edge of Sanity, despite war films starring someone like Audie Murphy being more up his alley. The second interview, running 24-minutes, focuses specifically on Edge of Sanity and its production. He wasn’t thrilled at the idea of doing Jekyll/Hyde story, or a Jack the Ripper one either, but so long as he could do his “version” he was game. I have to assume that the end results are what he wanted.
There are then a couple of new interviews starting with a 12-minute one featuring producer Edward Simons, who, like Kikoïne, expresses there was a hesitancy in doing another Jekyll and Hyde film only because there had been so many. It would also be tricky to get investors for such a project, but interestingly having Anthony Perkins onboard more than helped.
Stephen Thrower even pops up for 26-minutes to talk about the film’s production and he ends up striking up a more compelling defense of the film before getting into what he feels are clear influences, from Derek Jarman to Ken Russell. Russell's Crimes of Passion comes up specifically, though maybe that’s only because of the Perkins connection (it's probably worth mentioning Kikoïne brings up Carl Th. Dreyer as an influence in his one interview). Dr. Clarke Smith then provides a rather fascinating 29-minute look back at the many film depictions of both Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Ripper murders through the years. The segment ends up focusing more on the latter, the subject of which has proved especially popular through various forms of media since the murders first occurred, building in myth through a number of conspiracy theories that include the complicated one depicted in Alan Moore’s From Hell and the eventual Hughes Brothers adaptation. Smith also offers her own appreciation for Edge of Sanity’s blending of the topics, and she explains how she feels it holds up rather well all these years later.
The film’s original trailer (pushing references to Psycho) closes off the disc while the included booklet (limited to the first pressing) features an essay by Jon Towlson. The essay, which also covers the film’s production, places the film in the context of the period it was released and the state of horror filmsthen, which were receiving pushback from critics for depictions of excessive violence.
I'll say I'm quite impressed with what Arrow has thrown together here. It's not a film I would have expected to have a lot of attention thrown at it, yet here we are. A nicely assembled set of features that aim to defend the film from its many critics.
With a sharp new presentation Arrow's new edition aims to defend the film from its many critics through the years.