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  Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype In Two Minds
Year: 1980
Director: Charles B. Griffith
Stars: Oliver Reed, Sunny Johnson, Maia Danziger, Virgil Frye, Mel Welles, Kedrick Wolf, Jackie Coogan, Corinne Calvet, Sharon Compton, Denise Hayes, Charles Howerton, Dick Miller, Jack Warford, Lucretia Love, Ben Frommer, Mickey Fox, Tony Cox
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Henry Heckyl (Oliver Reed) is a podiatrist who suffers a sad affliction: he is hideously ugly, so much so that he is shunned in the street, has no friends, and has never had a love affair. He's so depressed about this that he is considering suicide, but goes to work today anyway, if only to catch a glimpse of the woman, Coral Careen (Sunny Johnson), who takes the same bus as he does every morning. He wishes he could get to know her, but looking as he does is well aware that she would never agree to that, so what if there were some way of changing his appearance for the better?

Despite what you may think from that premise, this was a comedy, and made by Roger Corman associate Charles B. Griffith, the man who thought up The Little Shop of Horrors among other low budget cult favourites. Here he was working for Cannon who at this stage were making inroads into the global film market through sheer weight of product rather than any notable quality, and apparently even for them they knew a turkey when they saw it for Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype was barely released. Those who did catch it understood all too well why: in tying to capture the spirit of those anything goes on a shoestring efforts of Griffith's renown, they created an utter mess.

Seriously, it was barely coherent and when you could follow it, assuming you still had the inclination, the notion that this was meant to be funny the most confounding part of it. Indeed, stretches of it were played curiously straight, as if the lead character's soul searching was sincere in its examination of the lovelorn, but then Griffith would throw in a wacky scene which would embroil the film in confusion once again. As you could tell from the title, this was yet another Jekyll and Hyde spoof, one part Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll to one part The Nutty Professor; this time the doctor was given a potion rather than inventing one himself, by a fellow doctor at his clinic who is administering his creation to fat women to make them thin.

But when Heckyl takes it, deciding against the suicide option for the moment, it has an unexpected effect: he turns into Oliver Reed. Someone who looks like Oliver Reed anyway, which makes a change from Heckyl's usual pale green neanderthal appearance, but also has the unfortunate effect of making him mentally unbalanced. So when he thinks he finally has a chance to lose his virginity, he gets carried away and kills the women he's with, thus scuppering his plans and making him a fugitive from the law to boot. There's only one woman who can understand him and she's Coral, funnily enough, with Johnson - who died tragically young four years later - working wonders with a sweet, naive character.

But she's not in the story as much as she should have been, as for the most part Griffith appeared distracted either by his out of control filmmaking, Reed who was turning up to the set drunk, or the guest stars he hired to offer a touch of celebrity sparkle. These included Jackie Coogan in one of his last roles as a sergeant, Corinne Calvert likewise as a potential victim, and Griffith's old buddy Mel Welles as the mad scientist who comes up with the potion in the first place, but as nobody seemed sure of what was being aimed for here they descended into a morass of disjointed sequences and jokes that were eerily unfunny. This was just about worth watching to witness a cast all at sea, but considering the talent Cannon had assmbled you might well have expected more than the horror spoof equivalent of a car crash. And check out that ending, which seemed to owe more to Altered States than to Robert Louis Stevenson - no wonder they apologised to him in the credits. Music by Richard Band.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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