I, Monster (1971)

I, Monster (1971)

The most violent creature ever made by man!

Dr. Marlowe has been experimenting with drugs that release inner inhibitions. However the inner inhibitions which they release are murderous and lustful and he turns into his alter ego, the grotesque Edward Blake. His friend, Dr Utterson, is worried as Marlowe increasingly becomes more monstrous with each experiment and is finding it harder and harder to keep Blake under control.


I, Monster is an Amicus adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, only for some reason the studio has decided to change the names of the title character – which is weird considering the film is actually credited as being “Based upon the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson” so it’s not like they were trying to do a cheeky cash-in. Given that the novel is easily one of the most filmed literary works of all time, it was maybe a deliberate attempt to avoid it being tagged with the rest. Despite this, within the opening few minutes it’s easy to see that this is Stevenson’s classic in all but name.

The stand-alone horror films that Amicus made always seemed to me to lack flair and excitement. The majority of them crawl along at a snails pace, offering little in the way of thrills to get the blood racing. The stories were a bit more sophisticated than the Hammer films but, without the panache, they just drift along in lifeless fashion and I, Monster is no exception. The plot covers plenty of Freudian psychoanalytical techno-babble and certainly presents itself as a more intelligent and thought-provoking horror film than its rivals, avoiding the cheap thrills and spills of the Hammer films. But amidst all of the talking and discussions is a dearth of anything remotely gripping. I, Monster makes, in my opinion, the biggest mistake that a film can make – it’s dreadfully dull. This could be down to inexperienced young director Stephen Weeks, only twenty-two at the time, who fails to direct with any style.

The film was intended to be released in an early form of 3-D and the gimmick is pretty useless here because it was abandoned during mid-filming. There are numerous annoying camera shots of Christopher Lee walking behind the twisted glassware in his laboratory and holding things up to the camera. It’s hardly in your face 3-D pandering but some shots are a little more obscure and unusual than the audience will be used to. I just wonder whether too much time, effort and money went into this short-lived 3-D experiment because the final running time is a weak seventy-five minutes. Did money run out during production? An extra ten minutes of footage to beef up characters or add in something to pack a punch wouldn’t have gone amiss. No further evidence is needed than the poor finale, seemingly rushed and with little effort.

However the cast is still excellent. Cushing isn’t given much to do despite second top billing but still brings his usual qualities to the role when he’s on-screen. As Marlowe/Blake, Lee is superb though and does a great job of portraying both of his split personalities though he’s rather uptight and stuffy in his ‘good’ persona role. His physical transformations happen off-screen but the end result is simply Lee wearing a pair of plastic teeth, a crooked nose and ruffling his hair up a bit. It’s how he handles his different on-screen personas that make the contrast between Marlowe and Blake so stark. At least he gets to snarl and bring some of his Dracula menace to this more sadistic side of his personality. Lee clearly enjoys playing the villain and chews up the scenery likewise. The only drawback is Marlowe starts testing the serum out almost straight away, not giving the audience any chance to get to know the character. Coupled with his pompous and aloof attitude, he doesn’t make for a very sympathetic character to begin with.


The basics are there and I’ve read countless reviews which state that its one of the most faithful adaptations of the novel but I, Monster is dull, plodding and a real slog to get through. Its hardly a total failure but not an interesting one at that.





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