Edge of Sanity

1989's Edge of Sanity straddles a couple of oft-jilted subgenres: the Jekyll/Hyde legend and Anthony Perkins films.  Or rather, Anthony Perkins films that are not Psycho.  After the surprisingly competent sequels to Hitchcock's slasher standard, Ol' Tony was in vogue as a cost-efficient scream king.  A Demon in My View, The Ghost Writer (not to be confused with the misaligned, skew-whiff PBS series), Destroyer, Daughter of Darkness...he certainly kept busy.  Out of all of these spook-thrillers, Edge of Sanity was the one that screamed "ersatz Psycho" the loudest from video shelves.  Even at 13 years of age, I noticed the kind of skanky marketing that you would associate with a whore.

Whores!  Let's talk about 'em.  Perkins plays Henry Jekyll, and when his consciousness is obfuscated by Jack Hyde, he gets a charge out of killing whores.  I'm not passing judgment on whores, by the way; I just think it's a funny word.  Like Coccaro!  Unlike the stories you are no doubt familiar with, Jekyll doesn't need a potion to regress into a primal monster.  Here, the pharmaceutical catalyst is super crack!  I think.  It starts out as freebase cocaine, but its chemistry is recalibrated with what appears to be ethanol.  Look, I have no fucking clue.  I am neither a scientist nor a crackhead.  This is movie science, folks.  B-movie science!

I use the term "b-movie," but in actuality, Edge of Sanity is plated in an opulent glaze.  It's as if the film had a sugar daddy who pampered it in furs and diamonds.  Well, I suppose the truth is less interesting.  A production company simply decided to throw cash at a Psycho riff.  Director Gerard Kikoine, an artisan who made porn throughout much of the 80's, uses every trick up his sleeve to whitewash a sleaze script and overdress it with grace.  I'm talking brash lighting, innovative camera angles and stark set pieces (the climax is a feast for the eyes).  Is Edge of Sanity a case of style over substance?  Almost.  I will say, the scales tip in favor of style, but not to an offensive degree.

Outside of the Psycho quadrilogy, this might be the best Anthony Perkins performance that I've seen.  It's right for the role(s).  As Jekyll, he is urbane; as Hyde, he's an itchy creep.  As a matter of fact, I'm surprised that the prostitutes didn't turn him away.  Look at the box cover!  Hyde has all the earmarks of a barfly with AIDS.  "Too soon, asshole."  Hey, I didn't know he was a barfly.  Why don't we move on?  I've made myself uncomfortable.  The rest of the cast is on-point, especially Glynis Barber as Mrs. Jekyll.  I believed that she loved the reclusive chemist.  Sarah Maur-Thorp is uncaged as Susannah, a fancy-free harlot who is harboring a darkness of her own.  Again, she is convincing.  Susannah reminds Henry of...wait, why am I relaying every little plot nugget?

Watch Edge of Sanity for yourself.  I should warn you that it's not without its faults.  We are allowed a glimpse into the skullduggery of Hyde's constitution, but in my opinion, we don't learn as much about Jekyll.  Sure, we know about his warped childhood, but who the fuck is he?  He merely comes off as Posh Gentleman #38.  Also, the resolution leaves oodles to be desired.  I have nothing against unorthodox endings, but the (motion) picture drops anchor so abruptly, I got whiplash.  And the molloscum contagiosum virus!  On second thought, that may have been down there for awhile.  My point is, Psycho is a classic.  Keep Anne Heche on your radar!

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