Color, 1989, 90 mins. 42 secs.
Directed by Gérard Kikoïne
Starring Anthony Perkins, Glynis Barber, Sarah Maur Thorp, David Lodge, Ben Cole, Jill Melford
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), Wicked Vision (Blu-ray & DVD) (German RB/R2 HD/PAL), Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Fans of VHS horror in the late '80s were more than a little surprised and confused when they laid eyes on 1989's Edge of Sanity, part of a string of European projects starring Anthony Perkins that mostly went straight to video (a la the fascinating A Demon in My View). In this one we get his take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, here glazed with a lot of softcore sex and some Jack the Ripper touches-- so excessively that it was issued in both R-rated (for Blockbuster) and unrated editions. The latter has since become the standard since the film's transition to MGM, and today it's one of the wildest offerings from Gérard Kikoïne, who normally flitted between softcore and hardcore (with films to his credit like Lady Libertine and Love Circles). Here he teamed up with legendary international exploitation producer Harry Alan Towers, who had engineered the most lavish period of Jess Franco's career; the two reunite on the heels of this with the quasi-Poe freak-out Buried Alive with Robert Vaughn and Ginger Lynn.
Instilled with a heavy S&M kink after a childhood incident in a barn, Jekyll is up to his usual tricks here dabbling with cocaine concoctions that unleash a ripper murderer within called Hyde who likes to go after local prostitutes, unbeknownst to his wife Elizabeth (Glynis Barber). As his nocturnal antics in London's underbelly become more flamboyant, Hyde's activities draw the attention of the authorities and his wife with tragic results.
Visually lavish and a fine companion to films of the decade by Franco and Ken Russell, Edge of Sanity uses the tried-and-true method of having another European city (in this case Budapest) standing in for London apart from a few bona fide establishing shots. As expected, it's primarily a vehicle for Perkins to go through the roof with a sweaty, demented performance that somehow ties together the deliberate music video-style aesthetic that often tosses the period setting right out the window. Of course the Hyde-Ripper connection has been done before (including Hammer's stab at it with Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde), but there's no denying that turning the character into a freebasing kinkster serial killer is a new wrinkle. Also notable here is the ending, a definite departure from the norm that's more in line with the melancholy decadence of something like Borowczyk's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne.
Edge of Sanity has been a home video staple since VHS including a 2002 DVD release from MGM and a 2016 Blu-ray double feature from Scream Factory (paired up with Destroyer for some reason), both with the uncensored version now sporting an R rating. That cut is retained on the 2022 standalone Blu-ray from Arrow Video, which features a luscious new 2K transfer from the original camera negative and makes for great eye candy all the way. The LPCM 2.0 English stereo track sounds great as well with lots of nice channel separation for thunderclaps and Frédéric Talgorn's dramatic, Pino Donaggio-style score. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided. The extras kick off with a thorough new audio commentary by David Flint and Sean Hogan mixing great enthusiasm and horror scholarship, followed by the Kikoïne career-covering interview "French Love" (21m12s) from the 2021 Wicked Vision release in Germany, a more specific "Staying Sane" (24m17s) interview with the director for the same German release, an "Edward's Edge" interview with producer Edward Simons (12m8s) about being brought into the film by Towers, a great "Jack, Jekyll and Other Screen Psychos" (28m37s) appraisal by Dr. Clare Smith about the film's ties to Ripper lore and cinematic history, and the always insightful Stephen Thrower giving his own take in "Over the Edge" (26m18s) contextualizing the film's deliberate anachronisms and ties to other names like Derek Jarman. The campy original trailer is also included (in very low-grade SD), and the first pressing comes with an insert booklet featuring a new essay by Jon Towlson.
Reviewed on May 28, 2022.