Decades before she starred on Showtime's revival of Twin Peaks
, Laura Dern appeared in another Showtime series, desperately trying to catch the eye of Henry Jekyll on Shelley Duvall's short lived anthology series, Nightmare Classics
. With a teleplay by J. Michael Straczynski, this version of Jekyll and Hyde
, like the Jack Palance version, takes a cue from The Nutty Professor
but even more obviously. With an ending that's a bit too abrupt and a misguided conception of Hyde, the episode does have some nice performances from Dern and Anthony Andrews as well as some disappointing supporting performances. In comparison to other examples of the "shy Jekyll" and "suave Hyde" type, this one functions mainly in agreement with the original argument of the novella.
Andrews plays a shy and awkward Dr. Jekyll. Unable to muster the courage to return the earnest and obvious affections of Rebecca Laymon (Dern) he throws himself into his research. This neatly ties in with his repression leading to the creation of the psychopathic Hyde.
Makeup is minimal in this one but Andrews does a good job with his performance making Jekyll and Hyde seem like different people. Unfortunately, his decision to play Hyde as exceedingly stiff and aloof doesn't really make sense for a persona that's supposed to be without any restraint or inhibitions. He kind of comes off as a cross between Jeremy Irons and Klaus Nomi.
Rue McClanahan appears as the brothel owner with a broad French accent, her performance more suited for oversized comedy; she's a bit out of place here. Laura Dern has the seemingly effortless natural charm she's known for though it's a bit of a mystery why she's so attracted to Jekyll. She mentions admiring his work--it could've been an intriguing bit of irony if she loved him for the very work that's tied into his destructive repression. In this version, Jekyll speaks quite plainly of good and evil, something that causes a character to remark he seems more like a priest than a doctor. In this Straczynski might have been attempting to neatly wed the Nutty Professor
premise with the novella's original idea of the destructive nature of artificial, imposed codes of moral conduct.
But after a climax that features an abrupt confrontation with quite of issues unresolved, nothing feels adequately fleshed out. The impression is of a two hour script with roughly half of it removed. But there are some nice elements in what there is.