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Mary Reilly

    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Mary Reilly

    Released By: Mill Creek
    Released On: October 17, 2017.
    Director: Stephen Frears
    Cast: Julia Roberts, John Malkovich, George Cole, Michael Gambon
    Year: 1996
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Mary Reilly (Julia Roberts) is your run-of-the-mill, late nineteenth century house servant to the esteemed Dr. Henry Jekyll (John Malkovich), a well-known and well-respected Doctor. Along with the rest of the staff, Mary sees to the good Doctor's meals, scrubs his cobblestone steps, empties his chamber pot, launders his blood-soaked embroidered handkerchiefs, and lays awake at night listening to the tortured screams and cries of children that come from his lab across the back yard. The crew of servants, led by the virtuous Mr. Poole (George Cole), are expected to be on hand at all times for the master, but to step aside to make way for Poole in matters of extreme confidence.

    Mary is first placed in danger of violating these rules of servitude when Jekyll's attention is drawn to the numerous scars on her body, including bite marks on her neck; and although she does her best to carry out her duty of servitude, she worries that her reluctance to discuss their origin may place her out of favour with her employer. However, Mary further rouses the Doctor's curiosity when he discovers that she has been borrowing books from his vast library, surprised that the young lady has the ability to read, and that she would violate the sanctity of the closed library door. Intrigued by Jekyll's interest in her, she allows him to examine her scars, and goes so far as to explain the horrific childhood event that resulted in the permanent markings.

    Now within each other's confidences, the Doctor informs Mary that he'll be taking on an assistant in the lab; one Mr. Edward Hyde; and that she and the other staff are to give this newcomer free reign over the household. Furthermore, Jekyll entrusts Mary to deliver a private letter to Mrs. Farraday (Glenn Close), the local brothel owner, where Mr. Hyde is eventually to take residence. Mary's shock over her Master being familiar with such an establishment, also a popular spot for affluent politicians, is quickly forgotten when she has her first encounter with Mr. Hyde, a frantic, crazy-eyed, well, Dr. Jekyll lookalike, and she's caught off guard enough to assist later in the cleaning up of a horrific bloody mess at Mrs. Farraday's. For whatever reason, Mary finds herself both taken with Jekyll AND Hyde, driven to help the obviously pained Doctor, and to fall victim to the inappropriate advances of the reckless and wild assistant; all to the displeasure of the discarded Mr. Poole.

    It isn't long before Mary finds herself drawn even further down the rabbit hole, accomplice to the murder of one of Farraday's politician clients, and witness to the unbelievable happenings in Jekyll's lab. Against a gothic backdrop, Mary is forced to choose between the good Doctor and his evil accomplice, finally admitting to herself that one may have more to do with the other than she initially thought.

    Really, if you're at all familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or even if you've heard the name, you know what you're in for from the start of the film. This is the story of an experiment gone wrong, which brings about evil, or is it a flirtation with science that simply allowed the real man to emerge? For whatever reason, author Valerie Martin figured that the Robert Louis Stevenson's original story needed embellishment, and for some other reason, somebody decided that it would make a good film. They weren't altogether wrong, but Mary Reilly features far more missteps than it should, considering the strength of the original material. Strangely, Julia Roberts, normally not capable of acting beyond her one dimension, is not the weak link; that distinction goes to the usually brilliant John Malkovich, who is garbage in this. Malkovich can't seem to find the balance between the characters of Jekyll and Hyde (oh yeah, he plays both roles, just with a different haircut and a goatee), and so overacts in both capacities, wretchedly so. Supporting cast members, including Close and the rest of the house staff are very adequate here, but aren't given enough screen time to really make a difference. No, sadly, it's Malkovich who brings the house down on this one, and not in a good way.

    There are some things that Mary Reilly gets right, though, including some genuinely suspenseful moments and a nice, murky atmosphere that one imagines is at least what 19th-century Great Britain (or Scotland, or Ireland) should be, and George Fenton's score is quite nice, reminiscent of the music that features on classic monster films. But an overlong by about twenty minutes run time, an unsatisfying conclusion, and really, the idea that NOBODY RECOGNIZES THAT JEKYLL AND HYDE LOOK THE DAMNED SAME are serious strikes against the film that it can't recover from.


    Mill Creek brings Mary Reilly to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks quite meh, overall. Granted, there are moments in the film when the transfer seems to pop, and sure, some of that mud onscreen could be intentional to perpetuate the foggy atmosphere, and maybe some of that strobing is the result of the gas lamps that light the manor, but there's no way that this lack of calibre is the vision of the film makers. With dirt, debris, andn speckling throughout, this one isn't going to rank up there with top transfer of the year.

    The English LPCM 2.0 audio track (with optional English subtitles) is slightly more acceptable, carrying the spoken word and score adequately, with the occasional foley effect punching through. Still, this isn't a range-filled track that sounds punchy in it's stereo-ness, rather one that fits the quality of the video transfer.

    There are no extras on the disc to speak of.

    The Final Word:

    A pedestrian storyline based in horror greatness that is more miss than hit with a mediocre transfer, it's hard to picture anyone rushing to the store to pick up Mill Creek's Mary Reilly.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    • C.D. Workman
      C.D. Workman
      Senior Member
      C.D. Workman commented
      Editing a comment
      Other than her iffy accent, I think that Julia Roberts is quite good in this, one of the best things about it, actually. And I absolutely agree with you, Mark: Malkovich is what brings the whole house down. He's ridiculous. When I first saw the film on opening night, those performances were exactly the opposite of what I went in expecting, but I now realize that, with the right material, Roberts is a very good actress. It's just that, more often than not, she's opted for roles in films that would make money rather than showcase her talent. This was the beginning of her brief experiment with small(ish), more artistic films; she followed it up with MICHAEL COLLINS. But neither film did well, and she soon returned to the boring mainstream.

    • Mark Tolch
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      Roberts in mainstream mode, where she's guaranteed to have at least one horse-toothed guffaw present, is grating. But yes, I was surprised by her performance in this, and by how off-putting Malkovich, a favourite of mine was
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