Edge of Sanity Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: June 21, 2022
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 90:42
Director: Gérard Kikoïne
When his experiments into a powerful new anesthetic go hideously awry, respected physician Dr, Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) takes off into the night, casting aside the shackles of upper-class propriety as he disappears into the shadowy decadent demimonde of Whitechapel in pursuit of sensual pleasures under the guise of ‘Mr Hyde’. As his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) passes her time in charitable work, rehabilitating the district’s fallen women, Hyde is drawn into an escalating cycle of lust and murder that seems to know no bounds. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Following Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Anthony Perkins bolstered a respectable screen and stage career on the massive success of what became a career-defining role. At the same time, he also actively avoided revisiting sympathetic murderer Norman Bates for good reason. In 1983, he was finally convinced to play Norman again in Richard Franklin’s Psycho II, thanks to a strong screenplay from future Fright Night (1986) and Child’s Play (1990) writer Tom Holland, then reprised the role a third time for Psycho III (1986), when he was offered the chance to direct. Despite avoiding typecasting for twenty-plus years, Perkins had opened the floodgates to a lucrative position as an elder statesman of horror as the genre entered a second decade of dominance on home video. In 1988, he had a glorified cameo as a sardonic B-slasher director in Robert Kirk’s B-slasher Destroyer, followed by more substantial roles in Tobe Hooper’s made-for-TV possession thriller I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Stuart Gordon’s made-for-TV vampire movie Daughter of Darkness (1990), and Petra Haffter’s A Demon in My View (1992), where he played another wistful serial killer not unlike Norman Bates.
The Psycho sequels, including Mick Garris’ prequel, Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), were the best received of these late horror films, but Gérard Kikoïne’s Edge of Sanity (1989) is well-remembered by fans for its elaborate production design, stylish direction, and, of course, Perkins’ commanding, tastefully hammy performance. It might have even been his best of the decade, had it not been for a memorable turn in Ken Russell’s Crimes of Passion (1984). Similar to Dwight H. Little’s Phantom of the Opera, which was released the same year and featured a very Freddy Krueger-fied version of Gaston Leroux's title antagonist, Edge of Sanity attempted to bring a horror literature classic into the franchise horror era; in this case, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (originally published 1886). Kikoïne’s version, credited to co-writers Ron Raley & J.P. Félix, is a period piece, but the delivery system for Hyde’s formula based (haha, pun) on crack cocaine smoking in order to fit the post-Drug War 1980s. The writers also combine aspects of Stevenson’s story with pieces of Jack the Ripper’s historical legend, similar to Roy Ward Baker’s Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971). Unlike Little’s film, Edge of Sanity doesn’t really try to reinvent Jekyll & Hyde for the slasher era, opting to focus on psychodrama over body-counts.
Edge of Sanity is a really handsome film, utilizing stark, wide angle shots of stage-like sets in order to infuse everything with an updated, music video-inspired look. The borderline avant-garde production design is mixed with Victorian costuming, ‘80s spangled accessories, smoke, soft-focus, dutch angles, and neon lighting that would have made the Memphis Group smile. Kikoïne had dabbled largely in erotic films of the hard and softcore varieties and, in the lead-up to Edge of Sanity, directed a pair of sexploitation period pieces – Dragonard (1988) and Master of Dragonard Hill (1987) – both produced/co-written by former Jess Franco collaborator Harry Alan Towers. Though sold as a horror film, Edge of Sanity actually fits perfectly with these faux-classy, costume drama bodice-rippers and their sometimes satirical debauchery. Even Perkins in a headlining role jibes with the casting of Oliver Reed, Eartha Kitt, and Herbert Lom in the Dragonard movies. Kikoïne directed only one more feature, Buried Alive (1990), based on several Edgar Allan Poe stories. Despite reteaming him with Towers, Buried Alive is closer to a straight horror movie and is lacking the stylistic flourishes that make Edge of Sanity so entertaining.
Edge of Sanity was released on North American VHS in both R-rated and unrated cuts. According to anecdotal information, the unrated version was actually more common and the R-rated version was made exclusively for Blockbuster Video rental. In the digital age, the R-rated cut has basically been erased, because every available DVD (all of which have been released via MGM), as well as Scream Factory’s Blu-ray debut (a double-feature with Destroyer), have been uncut. For the record, the ratings issues sprung less from the actual gore quotient than from the kinky and cruel tone of the film’s sexual violence (see this link for a breakdown of the differences between R and unrated versions). I don’t have the Scream Factory disc on hand for direct comparison, but recall it being identical to the HD streaming transfer. It was pretty good and didn’t really need a remaster, but Arrow has gone back to the original 35mm camera negative for a 2K restoration, nonetheless. Again, I’m not making a 1:1 comparison here, but, based on screencaps I found around the internet and some footage in this disc’s extras, the new scan appears to tighten up the grain and improves textures without oversharpening cinematographer Tony Spratling’s soft focus and smoky details. Better yet, the new transfer preserves the impressive color quality of the previous disc.
Edge of Sanity comes fitted with an uncompressed, LPCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack. This is, undoubtedly, a good representation of the original mix, though, as happens with a lot of pre-digital Dolby mixes, the ‘ghost’ center channel dialogue is kind of soft. I checked my old Scream Factory review and, sure enough, I had the exact same issue with that one, so this is almost certainly just the mix itself, not Arrow’s treatment of the material. The good news is that Frédéric Talgorn’s rich and neatly layered score sounds really great in the stereo channels and the sound effects, while thin to maintain the ethereal tone of the film, are clear and clean. Talgorn made his feature composer debut here and returned to work with Kikoïne and Towers for Buried Alive, where he recycled unused Edge of Sanity demos.
Commentary with writer David Flint and author/filmmaker Sean Hogan – Flint of Reprobate Magazine and Hogan, the writer/director of The Devil’s Business (2011) playfully explore the film’s themes and stylistic choices, the history of Jekyll & Hyde movies, and the careers of the cast & crew.
Staying Sane (24:17, HD) – Director Gérard Kikoïne discusses the making of Edge of Sanity, from prep, to meeting Anthony Perkins, make-up tests (comparing Perkins’ look to other cinematic Hydes), camera/lens/lighting choices, production design, the Freudian themes, adding Jack the Ripper into the mix, and more.
French Love (21:12, HD) – This second interview with Kikoïne covers his larger career, working as a French dub localizer, his preferred genres growing up, a period when he only made commercials and industrial films, hooking up with Harry Alan Towers, directing porn, his extensive prep, and working with big name actors, like Oliver Reed.
Edward's Edge (20:22, HD) – Producer Edward Simons talks about his part in the production and shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes.
Over the Edge (26:18, HD) – Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (FAB Press, 2007), breaks down the film’s production, its Freudian and drug addiction themes, its unique additions to the Jekyll & Hyde lore, Kikoïne and Towers’ pairing, Perkins’ performance (as well as his career at the time), and deliberate anachronisms throughout the movie (something I didn’t mention in my review that Thrower and the commentators discuss is the way Jekyll’s world is Victorian and Hyde’s is of the ‘80s).
Jack, Jekyll and Other Screen Psychos (28:37, HD) – Dr. Clare Smith, author of Jack the Ripper in Film and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), closes out the new and exclusive extras by contextualizing Edge of Sanity’s many Jack the Ripper references.
U.S. theatrical trailer
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