Edge of Sanity is an interesting, but flawed film, taking the Jack the Ripper case, and combining it with Robert Lewis Stephenson’s classic work of Victorian horror – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Anthony Perkins plays the title characters, and he handles the dual role incredibly well, playing Jekyll’s restrained, well meaning, and repressed nature, along with Hyde’s unleashed id, leading into something of a hybrid-character we see later in the film. Director Gérard Kikoïne gives the film a strong sense of visual style, using Dutch angles and deep shadows to visually represent Hyde’s state of mind, and to make it clear to the audience who is running the show (in terms of Jekyll’s body) at what times. Alone, Perkins performance and Kikoïne’s photography would make it clear, but combined, it creates a situation with two strikingly different worldviews shown on screen.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Hyde’s predations, the film seems to focus almost entirely on the sexual side of Hyde. In this film, Hyde is not the prototype of the ultraviolent young men of A Clockwork Orange, though Perkins would certainly like to play him that way, and tries to take his performance as close to that as the script will allow. Instead, as far as the film is concerned, Hyde is a rapist – but one who sadistically tortures his victims and slaughters them once he’s done. It’s certainly horrifying, cruel, and fitting with the nature of Hyde (Hyde rapes and murders in the books), but Hyde of the book is beyond that. He’s a being of unchecked id hiding behind a veneer of culture. He’s everything about humanity that scares us – the cold, calculating monster who will take whatever he wants, with great brutality and violence, but who can almost flawlessly hide those parts of himself from the public eye.
Aggravating this point is the fact that the writers wanted to make a franchise out of this. The conclusion of the film is quite inconclusive. In reality, Jack the Ripper was never caught, but did eventually stop killing. There are numerous ways this could be taken – in Alan Moore’s From Hell (and Murder By Decree), the killer was caught – but because of their ties to the Royal family, they were instead quietly committed and lobotomized. In other works, he leaves for America and is killed or captured there – but not identified as the Ripper. Hell, in Shanghai Knights, he’s summarily killed by being thrown off of a bridge.
In Jekyll and Hyde, on the other hand, there are also various different endings based on interpretation, but they all wrap up the story, with Jekyll usually dying, in some manner or another, to check Hyde’s actions. Instead, this film ends with Hyde having murdered Jekyll’s wife, and Jekyll being quite aware of this – and doing nothing to check Hyde’s further onslaughts – by turning himself in to the police, or having himself committed, or by committing suicide – all other acts done in other adaptations. Instead, Jekyll is alive, loose, and fulling willing to take up his concoction of Cocaine and Ether again, so he can once more release Hyde.
What with the focus on not only sex, but sexual violence in this film, I can’t help but think that the mindset of the producers was “The Jason films have toned down the violence and to a degree the sex, let’s create a slasher franchise that doesn’t hold back on the sexuality, using a public domain character.” Consequently, it leads to a film with great acting performances and great photography, but which doesn’t quite work as well as it could.