Mary Reilly

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama / Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1 non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 
Rating Other Trailer(s) No
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks No
Running Time 104:00 minutes Other Extras Featurette - Behind The Scenes
Filmographies - Cast & Crew
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (54:32)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Stephen Frears

Columbia TriStar
Starring Julia Roberts
John Malkovich
George Cole
Michael Gambon
RRP $34.95 Music George Fenton

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

   If you have seen the old Daffy Duck version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, you have basically seen this story in its most raw form. A man (or duck) finds a way to unleash the monster within, using drugs, and also has the ability to control it - effectively becoming two people in one. Now, this might not be so unusual a feat, especially with modern drugs - and usually being used to do the reverse - but it is unusual that the two personas have different physical qualities. You know, the monster has hideous teeth and a hairdo better suited to the morning bathroom mirror, and the other persona is dapper, intelligent and charming. And, this story has had its fair run of film stock. What was needed was a different angle on the classic story, and Mary Reillyis an attempt at just that. Whether it works or fails is really up to you.

   Mary Reilly, played somewhat haphazardly by Julia Roberts is a young chamber-maid, employed by a curious Dr Jekyll. This elusive, rich, intelligent man is rarely away from his studies, locked away in the basement, and his comings and goings are much the talk of the various staff of the household, including the perfectly cast butler, George Cole. It is not long before Dr Jekyll takes a liking to Mary, and in a morbid-fascination the reverse also happens - Mary is both repulsed and compelled by Dr Jekyll. Dr Jekyll announces that his partner in medicine, one Mr Hyde, will have the run of the house, and is to be given all courtesy by the staff. Mary becomes entangled this strange triangle-relationship, and we never truly know whether she is drawn to the rational Jekyll or the lustful Hyde. This twist on things has the perspective from Mary's point of view, and not only is the curiosity of the monster explored, but also Mary's own personal feeling of guilt and confusion as she wrestles with her inner feelings. She too has lustful thoughts, but must keep them buried and present only a meek, obedient exterior. Is this the quality which Dr Jekyll sees in himself? Maybe. Indeed, at the very end of the movie, Mr Hyde kills himself as a way to "free" Mary from her torment.

    The movie is benefited enormously by having the superb John Malkovich play Dr Jekyll and his counterpart Mr Hyde. He can be both charming and villainous at once and takes command of the role with aplomb. Special mention must also be made of Glenn Close's portrayal of a whore-house madam. Whilst her appearance has just the right amount of gruesomeness to it, her accent is atrocious, being all over the place - but, she is convincing in her role.

    The setting is, in itself, a star of the movie. All around, we see a dark, dirty, sinister Victorian setting, with the story dropped firmly in the middle of it, and it fits like a glove. The pace is slow, sometimes to the point of stopping, and ultimately there is no satisfaction to be had. I would rather have had a different ending, because although there is closure as far as Jekyll and Hyde goes, we know nothing of the fate of Mary Reilly. But, for me, the movie is a great escape into the strange period that was the 19th century, when science was going to be the great saviour of man in the hands of the good, and capable of unknown horrors in the hands of evil...

Transfer Quality


    This is a truly excellent transfer, and deeply satisfying for me. Reference quality without a doubt, and one which took me away and placed me in Victorian England.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    One of the most striking aspects of this transfer is the shadow detail. This is something I usually only comment on in passing, but time and time again during this movie there were times when a less capable transfer would have lost the plot (literally). Much of the movie is filmed in dark conditions, which is part of the story's ambience - dirt, dank Victorian England - and the transfer captures every detail wonderfully. Outdoor scenes are generally dark, wet and foggy (which seems to agree with me, being from that part of the world myself), and even in these extreme conditions the transfer never wavers an inch. The image is also generally very sharp and detailed with one major caveat - close ups of Julia Roberts often have the old glycerine on the lens treatment to soften her features, which is something I don't particularly agree with, and was sometimes distracting for me. Apart from that, the transfer was always impeccably presented. Given that this transfer is 16x9 enhanced, detail was always high even for distant objects. This was truly a film-like experience - which is of course nothing atypical from trusty Columbia TriStar.

    The colour palette was somewhat variable, being at times nicely saturated and at other times recessed. Generally, indoor scenes were lively and vivid in their colour renditions, and outdoor scenes were muted, imparting a sense of misery and dankness, which is of course what is required of it. Flesh tones were spot on for the most part, only being slightly oversaturated during candle-lit night-time scenes.

    Now, given all this dark and foggy setting in which we find this movie, it was a blessing to note that there are NO MPEG compression artefacts whatsoever. None. This is a superb compression job, and much of the thanks can go to the movie being placed on an RSDL disc. For a running time of 104 minutes, and with no real extras to speak of, essentially the whole disc is given over to the movie. Had this not been the case, I am sure that much of the very trying scenes would have suffered. A case in point is the scene at Mary's mother's funeral. This takes place in extreme fog, and as Mary walks away at the conclusion, her father slowly appears from the thick blanket of fog to see her (presumably his first contact with her in a while). This is a torture test for MPEG encoding because the scene is of the lowest contrast possible, and yet it is handled perfectly. This extra care from Columbia TriStar has preserved the fidelity of the original print for us to enjoy the movie without fault, and is much appreciated. I am all for allocating as much space for a movie as possible, even at the expense of decent extras if it means that the image and sound is of the highest quality. The RSDL layer change occurs during chapter 15 at 54:32 minutes, and is minimally intrusive.


    This disc is heavily laden with five audio tracks, four of them being Dolby Digital 5.1. They are English, French, German and Spanish. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix in Italian. The English soundtrack is superb, being subtle and powerful as needs be, and giving me no cause to complain at all. It earns reference marks.

    Dialogue was always clean and easy to understand, with no sync problems.

    The score by George Fenton is a wonderful piece and complements the movie entirely - and I was not surprised to find that the score is available on CD. It is highly effective in creating a mood or emotion in keeping with the ambience of the film's visuals. Essentially orchestral, it is recorded extremely well and has a very airy presence, with a very wide frontal soundstage and deep imaging. There is also a lot of detail in the soundtrack, especially for outdoor scenes, and the good old musical "stab" is used occasionally when the need arises to give you a kick in the pants.

    The soundtrack was very enveloping, though in a subtle way. There were few scenes which made aggressive use of the surround channels (although they were present, and very aggressive at that), and generally their usage was in creating an aural presence to match the visuals.

    There was not particularly much asked of the subwoofer, but it did effectively underpin the score somewhat at times, and was occasionally asked to help with the odd sound effect.



    The menu is quite tastefully done, although it is static - I would have loved some atmospheric music to go along with it!

Theatrical Trailer (2:06)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced and in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, this encapsulates the movie well, though it does have scenes which aren't in the movie (which is not too uncommon).

Featurette - Behind The Scenes (6:43)

    An utterly valueless extended promotional trailer, which simply takes up space if you ask me. I would really like to see actual behind-the-scenes documentaries instead of just a long trailer. Granted, there is the odd glimpse of the movie-making process, but if you added all those scenes together they would make up about 30 seconds worth.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    Call it even.


    A slow paced, atmospheric drama which has much to reward the determined viewer, though the ending is unsatisfying for me. John Malkovich's casting is sublime.

    The video is remarkably good, and is reference quality.

    The audio is atmospheric, suitably ambient and also of reference quality.

    Nothing really of any substance in the extras department.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley
13th March, 2000.
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A350A S-Video output
Display Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder Internal Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player)
Amplification Sony STRDE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
Speakers Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive