Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is one of the ever­greens of the hor­ror gen­re, a time­less tale of human nature’s dark side that is mal­leable enough to be reworked for the needs and mood of new gen­er­a­tions.  That said, it’s hard to imag­ine that Robert Louis Stevenson fore­saw any­thing like Edge Of Sanity, a wild blend of slash­er and soft­core smut that feels like a Hammer film col­lid­ed with a seamy grind­house epic.  If that descrip­tion isn’t inter­est­ing EdgSan-posenough, it also boasts a high­ly enter­tain­ing turn from Anthony Perkins as the film’s schizo-psy­cho.

The plot for Edge Of Sanity starts off with Dr. Jekyll (Perkins) devel­op­ing a cocaine-style pow­der to be used as a new breed of anes­thet­ic.  He’s also using it as a pick-me-up — and when an acci­den­tal fire in the lab caus­es him to inhale the fumes of the burn­ing for­mu­la, he devel­ops a depraved split-per­son­al­i­ty in the form of Mr. Hyde.  All Hyde wants to do is smoke for­mu­la, act as voyeur to sexy pros­ti­tute Susannah (Susan Maur-Thorp) and slice up oth­er ladies of the night in a style con­spic­u­ous­ly resem­bling Jack The Ripper.  This dual life takes a toll on Jekyll, mak­ing his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) sus­pi­cious as the cops take note of the bod­ies pil­ing up around town.

If that premise sounds sleazy, rest assured that Edge Of Sanity takes full advan­tage of its poten­tial.  Hyde makes his appear­ance at the 14 min­ute mark and the film becomes a pro­fu­sion of stalk and slash set­pieces, dol­lops of sex-and-drug kink and peri­od­ic breaks for Perkins to comEdgSan-01e unglued as he pon­tif­i­cates about man being set free from soci­etal rules.  The result­ing film has a real Euro-sleaze tone to it, off­set­ting the peri­od cos­tumes and lav­ish pro­duc­tion design with kink-laced mur­der sce­nes hap­pen­ing in sex­u­al tableaus, hints of bisex­u­al­i­ty and plen­ty of then-cut­ting edge evo­ca­tions of free­bas­ing.

Critics tend to come down hard on this film for using the story’s themes as a pre­text for a romp through sleaze… but that’s exact­ly the point of Edge Of Sanity and they do it with a sur­pris­ing amount of style.  Director Gerard Kikoine was for­mer­ly a spe­cial­ist in porn so he has no prob­lem cre­at­ing a debauched atmosEdgSan-02phere: Jekyll is given a deliri­ous­ly trashy child­hood trau­ma that kicks off the film and all the stuff in broth­els and back alleys is direct­ed in a way that sug­gests an ‘80s music video meets Ken Russell cir­ca Crimes Of Passion, com­plete with pros­ti­tutes who dress like Madonna in her “boy toy” phase.

Top-notch pro­duc­tion val­ues add to the deca­dent fun.  As usu­al with a Harry Alan Tower’s pro­duc­tion, the peri­od set­ting is bol­stered by excel­lent set design and cos­tumes. Tony Spratling’s sleek pho­tog­ra­phy makes excel­lent, Argento-esque use of red and blue light­ing and a lav­ish orches­tral score from Frederic Talgorn enhances the Hammer-esque edge to the pro­ceed­ings.  Best of all, Perkins gives his dual-role the right mix­ture of know­ing camp and MethoDestr-Edge-blud-actor psy­chosis, mak­ing his riff on the Jekyll/Hyde dual­i­ty a kinky blast of fun to watch.  The oth­er actors pale in com­par­ison but Perkins sets the tone nice­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the broth­el sce­nes.

Simply put, Edge Of Sanity is a high­light of Perkins’ lat­ter-day work and a must-watch for the exploita­tion film fan­base because it offers the most enter­tain­ing­ly trashy ver­sion of the Jekyll/Hyde arche­type to date.

Blu-Ray Notes: this title was recent­ly released by Scream Factory as half of a dou­ble-bill blu-ray pre­sen­ta­tion with Destroyer.  The MGM-sourced trans­fer looks real­ly nice, with those vivid red and blue hues pop­ping off the screen.  The loss­less pre­sen­ta­tion of the vin­tage 2.0 stereo mix offers a clear, bal­anced pre­sen­ta­tion of the mix.  The one extra for this title is a glo­ri­ous­ly over-the-top trail­er that smart­ly pitch­es the film as a campfest.