20 April 2024

Lovely Martine Beswick was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 26, 1941. The physically stunning brunette recalls that she had only one ambition as long as she could remember: “I wanted to grow up and go to live in Britain and have fun! It seems odd, I know, because all the British people I’ve met have had an ambition to live in Jamaica.”

Beswick achieved the goal in her teens, when she moved to the UK with her mother and sister after winning a beauty pageant and selling her car - the top prize in the contest.

A stint in fashion modeling led to her entry in the acting and motion picture business, where she landed a small part in the film Saturday Night Out. In the same time frame (1963), she appeared in From Russia With Love and Thunderball. The roles in two James Bond pictures gave her confidence and helped boost her career.

In 1966, Beswick was cast in the Hammer/Seven Arts remake of One Million Years B.C....where she displayed her assets (both physical and professional) quite well, no small feat in a film that is known primarily as the vehicle that made Raquel Welch an international star.

A dark haired beauty, Beswick certainly made an impression on the Hammer Films Studio, which gave her the starring role in the similarly themed Prehistoric Women the following year (1967).

There were some parts in television throughout the ‘60s and early ‘70s for her, including episodes of both Mannix and Night Gallery.

But Hammer was always just around the corner. And in 1971, Beswick had her juiciest role to date when she played the murderess Sister Hyde in the gender bending Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. As Ralph Bates’ alter-ego, she sizzled and sliced her way through 1880s Victorian London.

The tagline read, “The sexual transformation of a man into a woman will actually take place before your very eyes” and if that turned out to be an exaggeration, Beswick nevertheless gave an erotically charged, memorable performance that turned the oft-told Robert Louis Stevenson story on its head.

After drinking a serum that contains female hormones, Dr. Jekyll is transformed into the opposite sex (and then introduced to the other characters as his widowed sibling). In what could otherwise have been high camp, director Roy Ward Baker splendidly captures the sexual confusion that engulfs the doctor amid the conservative mores of the time. Variety called the film “highly imaginative” and said the strange resemblance between Bates and Beswick made the transitions entirely believable.

Beswick was the Queen of Evil in 1974’s Seizure, Oliver Stone’s directorial debut. The movie starred Jonathan Frid (from Dark Shadows) as a writer who decides to develop his nightmares...which feature Beswick...into story material. Beswick was compared to Barbara Steele and Cinefantastique called Seizure “the most remarkable horror film to appear since The Exorcist.”

For the remainder of her career, the actress steered again towards television. Baretta and The Six Million Dollar Man gave her opportunities to stay in the public eye, and she had a tiny part as the leader of a Satanic cult in Curtis Harrington’s Devil Dog: Hound of Hell (1978).

The ‘90s saw her return to the horror fold with the Karen Black thriller Evil Spirits (1990) and 1995’s Night of the Scarecrow. In addition, she supplied her voice to the regrettable Critters 4.

Author Calvin Thomas Beck called Martine Beswick a “sharp contrast to the cooler, fairer-looking movie adventuresses” personified by Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Tippi Hedren and other blonde sirens of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Truly, the horror genre was the lucky beneficiary of her unique poise and presence.

Devil Dog: Hound of Hell 1978
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde 1971
The Offspring 1987
One Million Years B.C. 1966
Prehistoric Women 1967
Seizure 1974
Thirty Dangerous Seconds 1972
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