Thursday, 31 March 2011

Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976).

Another blacksploitation horror movie from director William Crain (who gave us the highly enjoyable Blacula), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde sadly fails as an enteraining horror movie, though it does provide unintentional laughs and is hardly ever dull.
The story, as you may have guessed from the title, is a riff on the classic tale by Robert Louis Stevenson. Bernie Casey plays Dr. Henry Pride, a good man who is desperately trying to develop a completed formula that will regenerate liver cells. Just when he thinks he’s got it all sorted he decides to test it on a lab rat, which turns white and attacks the other rats. A bad sign, you may have thought, but Dr. Pride takes this as a sign to first inject an elderly female patient and then, a little while later, inject himself. The transformation is instant, Dr. Pride immediately turns white (Stan Winston is credited as the special effects guy here but I can only assume he was simply in charge of buying the flour and throwing it on Casey’s face) and homicidal.
You can have fun watching Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde, really you can, but it’s not the kind of fun you have while a movie carries you along on an enjoyable journey. Nope, this is the kind of fun you have simply by pointing and laughing. Which is still fun.
The script by Larry LeBron (from a story by Lawrence Woolner though that credit should go, surely, to Mr. Stevenson) is pretty awful in places. The whole thing is badly dated, and that’s not helped by the stereotypical pimp character (complete with pimp hat), completely unbelievable and doesn’t even come close to being scary once. Actually, to be fair, there is one good jump scare. That’s it.
Casey does well in the main role but he’s weighed down by clunky dialogue and then the indignity of the flour-faced performance that he has to give. Marie O’Henry is so-so as the prostitute/patient Linda, someone the doctor wants to help until the serum takes over. Ji-Tu Cumbuka steals his scenes once again (he also played Skillet in Blacula) as a verbose lieutenant trying to catch whoever is responsible for the spate of murders on his turf.
After a plodding start that tries to establish the character and the reason why the serum exists, the movie does lift itself gradually but it never gets too far before the ridiculous “monster” and unappealing cinematography bring it back down again. The soundtrack is another area in which the movie is lacking, almost as if nobody could work up the enthusiasm to wrote any decent music accompanying such lacklustre visuals. Overall, it’s easy to say that this entire movie could do with a shot in the arm. Ironically.

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