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DR. HECKYL AND MR. HYPE (1980) *

Charles B. Griffith wrote some of Roger Corman’s best movies in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Years later, he wrote and directed this for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and it’s one of the worst films Cannon ever made. If you’ve seen your fair share of Cannon pictures over the years, you’ll know that’s really saying something.

In the opening credits, it says “Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith, with apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson”. It’s almost as if Griffith was trying to let himself off the hook. If he really cared, he would’ve ended the movie with an apology to the audience.

Oliver Reed stars as the ugly Dr. Heckyl, a podiatrist who secretly pines for his beautiful patient (Sunny Johnson). He swipes a fat-burning formula from a colleague (Mel Welles, who also starred in Griffith’s Little Shop of Horrors), and tries to overdose on it, hoping that the fat-burning compound will waste him away to nothing. Instead, it turns him into the handsome (or as handsome as Oliver Reed can get) and horny Mr. Hype. He tries to get it on with nearly every woman he sees, but when they say something about his looks, he flies off the handle and kills them. Eventually, he sets his sights on Johnson, who is predictably more smitten with the kind (but ugly) Heckyl.

Like The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (which also featured Reed in a small part), Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype turns the tables on the usually accepted lore by having the Jekyll character be ugly and making Hyde appear handsome and suave. Too bad the make-up effects are terrible. I liked that they at least tried to make Reed look like the Frederic March version of Hyde. Unfortunately, the make-up is amateurish and crude and looks like it’s about a half a second away from falling off of Reed’s face. There’s no way anyone in their right mind would accept him as a human being, let alone a podiatrist. The transformation scenes are also terrible as they rely on annoying strobe light effects to (unsuccessfully) hide the edits.

The murder sequences aren’t very funny (or scary) either. In one scene, Hype sticks a woman’s toe inside a lamp and electrocutes her, which might’ve been funny if Griffith didn’t cut to the shot of her hair standing on end like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. There’s also a murder with a lion skin rug (?!?) that is just too bizarre for words. There is one OK face-to-the-mirror gag, but it’s much too brief to be really effective.

All of this is as painful as it is unfunny. Griffith relies heavily on comic sound effects, fast-motion chase sequences, and fat jokes. All of these, if you can’t already tell, reek of desperation and aren’t funny at all. Reed hams it up to embarrassing proportions and doesn’t get any laughs.

Sunny Johnson is the only bright spot in this. She does a good job at playing the object of Reed’s affections and it’s a shame that she gives such a good performance in such a crappy movie. Dick Miller (another vet of Little Shop of Horrors) has a small role as a garbage man who talks to himself. You wish he had more to do, but it’s okay since Miller’s very appearance brightens the movie up. A young Tony Cox (making his screen debut) also pops up as Heckyl’s nunchuck-wielding cellmate who (groan) becomes normal sized when he drinks the potion.

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