The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a novel written in 1886 by Robert Louis Stevenson. This famous tale of a proper gentleman with a savage split personality has received countless film adaptions over the years from the official MARY REILLY treatment to the modernized thematic variants such as AMERICAN PSYCHO. The mark of a classic is that it can endure forever despite being retold and reshaped throughout the decades to find resonance with the modern audiences of the day. Let us now ingest this strange cinematic concoction for ourselves and see if it doesn’t leave us feeling intense, euphoric and frightful afterward?
I first heard of this movie as one of the films in the Elvira compilation FILMGORE.
This film details the exploits of the Grandson of none other than Dr Jekyll himself, an egomaniacal jerk who wishes to perfect his ancestor’s mind bending, mood altering death serum by injecting it into unwilling test subjects who are kidnapped and forced to fight to the death in his low budget basement arena which looks like the gym in an underfunded public school. Assisted by with his entourage of unsightly freaks (his lobotomized sister Hilda and his two hulking henchmen Boris and Malo) he fills his nights with torture, insane soliloquy and private death sport all in the never ending quest to create the first manageable version of his mad family formula that will not permanently alter its test subjects into an uncontrollable savage monster. But fortunately there is hope; his father in law Professor Atkinson has the intellectual know how to stabilize his deadly brew. So Dr. Jekyll does whatever a mad scientist son in law does when he needs some assistance, he fakes the death of Atkinson’s daughter Julia in order to deliver her father into his clutches when he shows up to attend her funeral. It seems that Professor Atkinson will be forced to help after all, unless he wants to see Julia being used as the next test subject…
This could have been a deliciously evil premise for a movie but this rendition of Dr Jekyll is unfulfilling, a cinematic poke from a dull, empty needle of weird science gone wrong. For one thing, the darkest thing about this film is the level of stage lighting. All sets and scenes are clad in a murky level of blackness and perpetual monochrome night that would cause eyestrain to an earthworm. Moreover, while Dr. Jekyll himself is absolutely a nasty jackass who routinely abuses, attacks and intimidates those closest to him, the mere fact that there is absolutely no nudity nor graphic violence in this thing makes for a long drawn out tale of threats and hyperbole. Again and again it happens, Jekyll imprisons various people, forces them to help him with his experiments, plays them against one another in some fashion (usually a death match) while he sits back and carefully monitors the results, laughing insanely as he does like a petulant child. There are moments where our mad doctor does reprimand his guests/captives with an errant poke from an ice pick or a splash from a hot teapot, yet in the end he comes across as an unlikely criminal mastermind indeed, a guy who can somehow create the ultimate “madman in a can” catalyst, and yet somehow can’t figure out the “simple as chocolate milk” film formula that makes good cult movies so sweet and dark. Even the bloodbath at the end of this thing lacks punch, finality and dare I say evil genius?
However the constant trademark maniacal laugh of Dr. Jekyll himself is so overblown and bizarre that it might make a nice ring tone for your cell phone (as it has mine). Apparently someone at Cheezy Flicks agrees with me on this because it plays loudly on a continuous loop during the “chapter list” menu.
Special Features include film trailers from other Cheezy Flicks products and a few of those ancient drive-in intermission shorts of which I am always fond.