(US - 1980)
Written and directed by Charles B. Griffith. Cast: Oliver Reed, Sunny Johnson, Maia Danziger, Virgil Frye, Mel Welles, Kedric Wolfe, Jackie Coogan, Corinne Calvet, Sharon Compton, Denise Hayes, Charles Howerton, Dick Miller, Jack Warford, Lucretia Love, Ben Frommer, Joe Anthony Cox (Tony Cox), Yehuda Efroni, Michael & Steve Ciccone, Candi & Randi Brough, Herta Ware, Dan Sturkie. (R, 98 mins)
Though it sports the credit "Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith...with apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson," that pre-emptive mea culpa doesn't begin to atone for DR. HECKYL & MR. HYPE, an astonishingly unfunny comedy/horror knockoff of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and probably the worst film of Oliver Reed's career. Just out on Blu-ray from Scorpion (because physical media is dead), it was also directed by Griffith (1930-2007), a longtime associate of Roger Corman's going back to 1956's GUNSLINGER. Griffith's place in cult movie history is secure thanks to his screenplay credits on two early Corman classics--1959's A BUCKET OF BLOOD and 1960's THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS--as well as 1975's Corman-produced DEATH RACE 2000. Griffith also wrote notable Corman titles like 1957's NOT OF THIS EARTH and ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and 1966's THE WILD ANGELS, and it was good that he was able to dine out on that connection for so long, because when left to direct his own films, the results land in varying degrees of unwatchability, with two of his projects for Corman--1979's JAWS ripoff UP FROM THE DEPTHS and 1981's Jimmy McNichol car chase comedy SMOKEY BITES THE DUST--ranking among the very worst films ever released under the auspices of Corman's New World Pictures.
Cannon reign, before they carved their niche as the home of Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, and all things ninja, which kept the lights on while they made doomed, clandestine deals on cocktail napkins. Golan and Globus were still finding their footing in Hollywood, and several of their releases around 1979-1980--GAS PUMP GIRLS, INCOMING FRESHMEN, HOT T-SHIRTS, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES HOLLYWOOD--seem more like standard-issue New World drive-in offerings from the time. That's especially so with DR. HECKYL & MR. HYPE, from the involvement of Griffith, in one of the very few films he would make away from Corman, to the presence of Corman and/or New World stalwarts like Mel Welles (THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS), Kedric Wolfe (UP FROM THE DEPTHS), Corinne Calvet (TOO HOT TO HANDLE), Charles Howerton (EAT MY DUST), and the legendary Dick Miller, perfectly cast as a loudmouth garbageman. What HECKYL lacks is the sense of exploitation and fun that Corman films almost always delivered (unless it was a movie helmed by Charles B. Griffith), barely earning its R rating and even cutting away at the first hint of nudity that doesn't even arrive until late in the film, which is something Corman never would've tolerated in a New World product. DR. HECKYL & MR. HYPE is so deadeningly tedious and so mind-bogglingly awful that one can't help but wonder if Griffith initially took his script to Corman, only to have him thumb through it, answer a phone that wasn't really ringing, tap his watch and politely say "Yeah sorry, Chuck, I, uh, I got a thing."
Weirdly Gruesome from THE FLINTSTONES. People flee from him in terror ("Mine is the face that ruins a sunny day," he says) but all he wants is to find love. His colleague Dr. Hinkle (Welles) has been experimenting with a weight loss serum that has a side effect of turning one into what they've coveted, so the obese women he's used as guinea pigs all become young and gorgeous in addition to losing weight. It only takes a drop to be effective, and after Hinkle interrupts his attempt at suicide via garden-shear decapitation, a depressed Heckyl guzzles a significant quantity of the serum and morphs into his own id, "Mr. Hype," a handsome, well-dressed lothario with a nasty penchant for killing his conquests and throwing them in the dumpster outside Heckyl's apartment. Heckyl has no idea what Hype has done when he reverts back to usual self, but his actions have gotten the attention of cigar-chomping Lt. Mack Druck, aka "Il Topo" (Virgil Frye) and Coral Careen (Sunny Johnson), a patient for whom Heckyl has been carrying a torch for some time.
|Sunny Johnson (1953-1984)