Plot: What’s it about?
I think we all know the stories of Dracula and the reclusive Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, but do we all know those stories with Jack Palance involved? If not, you’re missing out on a superb pair of atmospheric television films, which offer terrific tellings of these timeless tales. In the first film, we find the elusive and lethal Count Dracula (Jack Palance) up to his usual tricks and we know what that means, he’s feasting on a few select unlucky folks who happen to cross his path. Dracula is usually careful about who he feeds on, in an effort to remain unknown and out of the light, but this time he has snacked on the wrong chick. He takes aim on a young woman and that causes her fiance to call in Dr. Van Helsing, who is ready to take the Count down once and for all. In The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, we follow Dr. Jekyll (Jack Palance) as he experiments to discover the nature of good and evil within men. He is a rather nice and reserved person, but when he puts the right concoction together, he becomes the crude and vile Mr. Hyde (also Palance of course). This transformation is not a smooth one, as Hyde tries to take over for good and Jekyll battles to suppress that side of himself forever.
This disc offers the chance to view two television films in one fell swoop, both starring Jack Palance and both in the horror genre. I have seen both of these movies prior to this release and enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to this disc. I am displeased to a certain extent with the visual transfer, but I don’t MPI could justify spending more money on a lower profile title like this one. Both look as good as I’ve seen them, which is good enough in my opinion. Would I prefer a better treatment? Sure, but I am pleased to have them and I would rather have them than not. The fact that both films have been included softens the blow somewhat, as does the more than fair asking price involved. The movies are terrific and a lot of fun to watch, as they included some excellent acting and effective suspense. Palance is solid in both leading roles and turns out to be a better Dracula that you might think. If you’re looking for a good suspense flick with some great atmosphere, this disc gives you the chance to view two for the price of one. A rental is highly recommended, but fans of the films will want to shell out the low price and own them instead.
I know Jack Palance isn’t a name you associate with horror movies or the characters he plays here, but he does a terrific turn in all respects. I happen to think Bela Lugosi is the definitive version of Dracula, but Palance still does a wonderful job and many critics actually prefer his turn as the vampire. His approach is unique to be sure, but it melds well the nature of the film and ends up being quite effective overall. In The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Palance tackles both sides of the coin and again comes through with effective work. He is able to bring across the subdued Jekyll well, but also rages with emotion and flair when he becomes Hyde. He doesn’t overdo things with either side and as such, is able to bring out the true balance between the characters. Overall, these are two solid performances from a very gifted actors, worth a look to be sure. Other cast members in these films include Nigel Davenport (Longitude, Chariots Of Fire), Simon Ward (All Creatures Great and Small), Sarah Douglas (Puppet Master III, Superman), Denholm Elliot (Noises Off…, Rude Awakening), Tessie O’Shea (Bedknobs and Broomsticks), Oskar Homolka (The Seven Year Itch, Billion Dollar Brain), and Torin Thatcher (The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Hawaii).
Video: How does it look?
Both Dracula and The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde are presented in full frame transfers, which preserve the original aspect ratio of the films. I knew these wouldn’t be pristine and as such, my expectation were middle of the road at best. As it turns out, those expectations were dead on as these transfers look decent, but also show some serious problems. The red tones do display some bleeds at time, which brings down the score, as does the contrast which is sometimes a little on the dark side. The main flaws come from the source material of course, but some compression errors also arise. But given the age and nature of these films, I think MPI has done a decent job on this disc. I mean, sure they could be better, but would the additional investment have been justified from MPI’s point of view?
Audio: How does it sound?
These sound much like you’d expect older made for television films to sound, which means there are some issues but in the end, these manage to get the job done. I found no age related problems other than lack of dynamic range, which I didn’t expect much of in the first place. I noticed minimal hiss, harshness, and distortion, which is good for films of this age and profile. Also in fine shape is the dialogue, which comes across well and shows no errors in the least. This mix has a proper volume balance and does all that it needs to, a fine audio presentation overall. Dracula also includes English and French subtitles, while The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde features them in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
OThis disc includes brief interviews with Dan Curtis and Jack Palance, which provide some nice insight, as well as Dracula’s European theatrical trailer. And in my opinion, two flicks for the price of one is an extra in itself.