Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde (1976) review


Bernie Casey (Dr. Henry Pride), Rosalind Cash (Dr. Billie Worth), Marie O'Henry (Linda), Ji-Tu Cumbuka (Lt. Jackson), Milt Kogan (Lt. Harry O'Conner), Della Thomas (Bernice Watts)

Directed by William Crain

"Brother man...this situation is rapidly becoming insalubrious... meaning we are 'bout to stomp a mud hole in yo' ass!"

The Short Version: Silly, but fun latter period blaxploitation horror flick full of Ho's, Joe's and Afro's. Dr. Pride becomes Mr. Hyde and late at night gives suckas a fright. Pimps shiver and quiver when he's around. The fuzz want him six feet under the ground. Unbeatable! Unstoppable! Enraged and uncaged! Hookers and pimps beware, Hyde is somewhere out there! Slow in spots, but enough skin, stunts, jive talkin' and jive turkey's gettin' snapped, crackled and popped, chopped, kicked and kung foo'd for soul skillets and lovers of sleaze who aint hard to pleaze.

A scientist employed at a Free Medical Clinic in Watts has concocted a serum with the power to regenerate dead liver cells. Testing the serum on himself, Dr. Pride becomes Mr. Hyde stalking the streets of LA at night killing hookers and drug pushers till the police surround him after the now monstrous doctor has climbed atop the Watts Towers.

William Crain of BLACULA fame attempts that old black magic a second time with this rambunctious, yet intermittently tepid and late blooming blaxploitation sensation. While BLACULA was an upper class affair due in no small part to William Marshall, DR. BLACK is frequently fun, if lower class entertainment that often gets mired in unintentional hilarity. Crain's movie is enjoyable enough, only by 1976, the blaxploitation genre had pretty much ran its course in terms of excitement and production quality. The script attempts to tackle real social issues of poverty stricken lives in Watts, but this subtext gets lost between energetic scenes of the superhuman Hyde hurling victims through the air and tedious attempts at a love triangle between Dr. Pride, his female colleague and a hooker with a heart of gold. It's also interesting to note that Hyde is virtually impervious to bullets till the KING KONG styled finale when he's climbed the Watts Tower and riddled with gunfire from the police.

I first saw DR. BLACK on Elvira's Movie Macabre and having not seen it since this dubious '35th Anniversary DVD', it fits in just fine with some of Elvira's other low grade Macabre Movies like BLOOD BATH (1975) and THE DAY IT CAME TO EARTH (1979). Unlike BLACULA, this picture fails to take advantage of its source material and make something imaginative out of it. It does manage to derive some laughs from Cumbuka's character of Lieutenant Jackson who fluctuates between jive speech and intellectual jargon--in the same sentence. Fans of SANFORD AND SON will recognize Della Thomas from 'The Party Crasher' episode wherein Lamont and Rollo royally disappoint their two dates till Fred shows up with a pot of onion stew and a bottle of Ripple.

Former football star, Bernie Casey has had quite a career appearing in everything from spectacle westerns like GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1969) to dramatic tearjerkers such as BRIAN'S SONG (1971) to blaxploitation flicks such as HITMAN (1972) and CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) and on to black themed dramatic classics like CORNBREAD, EARL & ME (1975). Casey tries to do something with his role, but when he's not skulking around breaking necks and furiously throttling street punks he's about as charismatic as petrified wood.

That's stuntman/co-ordinator Bob Minor doubling for Casey and wearing the pancake batter make up of Mr. Hyde.

The make up by a then up and coming Stan Winston is passable, but fails to impress if we're supposed to believe that Hyde is actually a lumbering white guy. In that respect, Hyde looks little more than Dr. Pride with pancake mix on his face and some flour in his hair complimented by demonic contact lenses and a pronounced brow. Before moving on to much bigger things, Winston was also sharpening his teeth on various horror movies of the decade like the TV terror of GARGOYLES (1972), the minor league THE BAT PEOPLE (1974), the gruesome MANSION OF THE DOOMED (1976) and the hilarious DRACULA'S DOG (1977). Tak Fujimoto, who photographed the classic BADLANDS (1973), dove head first into a field of lovable trash immediately thereafter with CAGED HEAT (1974), DEATHRACE 2000 (1975), CANNONBALL! (1976) and BAD GEORGIA ROAD (1977) before ascending the ladder of success with such credits as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991), GLADIATOR (1992) and several of M. Night Shyamalan's movies.

For a disc touted as the 35th Anniversary of a veritable obscurity, VCI comes up short delivering nothing of substance aside from a short, yet hilarious trailer and a noticeably worn print accompanied by a less than stellar audio soundtrack. The fact that it's widescreen and the relatively cheap price is enough for those who've had to make do with even more worse for wear VHS dupes. DR. BLACK & MR. HYDE (1976) offers up some cheap thrills and lots of intentional and unintentional laughs; more the latter than the former, but compared with Crain's earlier horror favorite, HYDE pales (haha) in comparison. For a much better example of blaxploitation horror that succeeds in creating a memorable main character, check out J.D.'s REVENGE from the same year. Blaxploitation buffs will still want to have HYDE in their collection.

This review is representative of the VCI DVD

DVD stats: 1.78:1; 1:26:30; anamorphic
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