Edge of Sanity is a 1989 American slasher horror, directed by French director Gérard Kikoïne in one of his last films in the director’s chair. The story combines elements from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 original novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde together with the tales of the infamous English serial killer, Jack the Ripper.
“As Henry Jekyll’s experiments with cocaine become out of control, he transforms into the hideous Jack Hyde. As Hyde, he searches the streets of London at night for his prey in whorehouses and opium dens. The police can’t catch him, he has nothing to lose but his mind”.
An interesting take on the Jekyll and Hyde character archetype, Edge of Sanity incorporates a very graphic detail of violence, sex, and drug use, thrusting the audience into the depraved side of Victorian London – Full of sex workers and high-class drug dens. Incorporating the pharmaceutical undertones of the original story, more so than other popular reimaginings of the story, the film explores this dark underbelly of high society in vivid detail. Instead, this representation differs from its source material but incorporates the real-life Whitechapel murders, a series of brutal slayings taking place in the impoverished borough of London between 3 Apr 1888 – 13 Feb 1891. One instance that deepens this connection is the exchange of Hyde’s original name of Edward to Jack to easier fit the killer Jack the Ripper, the name attributed to the perpetrator of these heinous crimes.
Delivering an amazing performance, Anthony Perkins nails the duality of the role incredibly well. His stuffy, repressed representation of Jekyll holds overtones reminiscent of Perkin’s most notable role as Norman Bates. On the other hand, the over-the-top campy embodiment of Hyde has Perkins chewing the scenery in all the right ways, providing an entertaining dichotomy between each character perfectly throughout.
Edge of Sanity provides an excellent display of Victorian London, rivaling similar period drama pieces that have been created since. Its visuals of East London at the turn of the 19th century are impeccably accurate, certainly less romanticised when it comes to the perverse nature of the time period that is often overlooked. However, one slight visual oversight is the inclusion of coinage not distributed in that period. The English Pound coin was not distributed until 1983, almost 100 years after the film’s setting, although most would hardly even notice this tiny inconsistency and is hardly going to sour any enjoyment of the film.
Unlike most modern retellings of the story, Edge of Sanity retains the original works’ connection to drugs and drug abuse. The tale of an affluent gentleman’s experimentation with and subsequent addition to cocaine, with all the negative side effects of such an affliction, personified as an ‘evil’ alter-ego. This embodiment of the concomitant with such abuse should serve as a stark albeit dramatised warning of the dangers of such endeavors, the consequential sustainment of such prolonged acts will only end negatively.
Edge of Sanity is available to preorder now (available from June 20th) at Arrow Videos website here. Comprised of an impressive 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, their Blu-ray also contains a range of special features, including:
- Original uncompressed stereo audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Brand new audio commentary by writer David Flint and author and filmmaker Sean Hogan
- Over the Edge, a brand new interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
- Jack, Jekyll and Other Screen Psychos, a brand new interview with Dr. Clare Smith, author of Jack the Ripper in Film and Culture
- French Love, a career-spanning interview with director Gérard Kikoïne
- Staying Sane, Gérard Kikoïne discusses Edge of Sanity
- Original Theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jon Towlson
Edge of Sanity fits the duality of its subject very well, managing to be both lavish and twisted, perverse yet elegant; retaining a level of 70s exploitation when it comes to the more violent scenes, executed with some amazing special effects. Though there are so many different retellings of this classic Gothic tale, Edge of Sanity is certainly distinct for its overall smutty nature. Undoubtedly, this classic piece of exploitation will entertain those who know what to expect from the genre as well as others looking to experience Perkins in a film other than Psycho.
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Hey there, I’m Jim and I’m located in London, UK. I am a Writer and Technical Director here at Grimoire of Horror. A life long love of horror and writing has led me down this rabbit hole, allowing me to meet many amazing people and experience some truly original artwork. I specialise in world cinema, manga/graphic novels and video games but will sometime traverse into the unknown in search of adventure.