Love Potion #9

Walerian Borowczyk’s DOCTOR JEKYLL AND THE WOMEN, which I haven’t been able to look at this week, is nevertheless worth mentioning. Presumably pitched as an “erotic horror film”, the movie is certainly more disturbing than sexy, with an ending that plunges into outright atrocity. It’s a bold and iconoclastic take on the Stephenson story, perhaps closer to the original draft, written in a night, which Stephenson burned when his wife Fanny expressed her disapproval over its morals.

(REMARKABLE how Jekyll, Dracula and Frankensteinall had their origins in dreams. The only movies that come to mind with dream inspiration are THE LADYKILLERS and THREE WOMEN, but no doubt some of you can suggest others.)

The Borowczyk potion causes Udo Kier to mutate, in the bath (the drug is used as a bath essence) into Gérard Zalcberg, making this one of the few films where J & H aren’t played by the same actor. But they’re actually similar enough in appearance to make it seem possible, watching the film, that Hyde is still Kier in subtle makeup. The main distinguishing feature is Hyde’s foot long, bayonet-like penis.

Despite all this unpleasant sordidness and beastly horriblings, Borowzcyk shoots the film with a misty soft-focus beauty and an eye for period detail. A former animator who worked with Chris Marker and Jan Lenica and made a couple of “pure” art films before getting sidetracked into erotica, W.B. was a distinctive talent — his films are really unlike anybody else’s. Alas, he seems to have retreated from filmmaking in his last years, avoiding anybody who wanted to discuss his work.

The film benefits from its budgetary restraints, being confined to the doctor’s house, creating a sort of internal seige effect that’s very tense. What’s weird, however, is that nobody thinks of simply LEAVING THE HOUSE. After all, there’s a raving maniac on the loose, literally screwing everybody to death with his monster schlong. And there’s no practical reason why they just can’t walk out the door. It’s as if everybody has Exterminating Angel Syndrome.

Trailer (not too obscene).

And here’s a milder Borowczyk:

8 Responses to “Love Potion #9”

  1. Udo is always Required Viewing.

  2. Bruce Baillie said at a screen of “Quick Billy” in 1971, that the film incorporated imagery from his dreams.
    Knew about Stevenson, Shelley and 3 Women. The dream origin of Dracula and The Ladykillers is new to me. Is this the Mackendrick version?
    Fellini kept a journal about his dreams. Am unsure if any were worked into his films.

  3. The “Dream Art” entry in Wikipedia makes undocumented claims about a number of films being dream-based: Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Maya Deren.

  4. I can certainly believe it of Tark, Para and Maya D.

    William Rose, screenwriter of the original Ladykillers (and The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming!) claimed to have dreamed the entire narrative. He told it to Mackendrick, who was excited by the story’s expressionist possibilities, and the essentially surreal tone of the tale. They then had to sell it to conservative (though Labour-voting) studio boss Michael Balcon (who had responded to the coming of sound by commissioning six new silents). “You say there are six characters, and at the end, five are DEAD..and it’s a comedy???” Somehow, they got it made.

  5. Dreams figure prominently in Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Juliet of the Spirits. His sadly underrated City of Women is enitrely about a dream.

  6. Unsurprisingly, David Lynch’s Lost Highway is pretty much entirely spun off from two dreams of Barry Gifford’s – one about getting videotapes of his house under surveillance posted through his front door (a dream that Michael Haneke seems to have shared) and one about meeting a man at a party who tells him “I’m at your house right now”. Also unsurprisingly, they’re the best elements in a very uneven film. Offering Marilyn Manson a role was a bad idea. I bet he dreams about filling in his tax return incorrectly.

  7. The “Dick Laurent is dead” buzzer call apparently happened to Lynch for real. Just think, if you were passing what you knew to be Lynch’s house, you WOULD want to buzz the entryphone, say something mysterious, and then leg it, wouldn’t you?

    The mystery man at the party seems to owe a lot to Patrick Bauchau’s turn in The New Age: exact same scene, different dialogue. The Tolkin film even has the music fading away as Bauchau speaks…

    And Bauchau was in the Emmanuelle film that Boroczyk directed (along with about four other guys), so that brings things neatly back to the start.

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