A brilliant black medical doctor researching a cure for liver disease becomes impatient to try out his new drug. After experimenting on a dying patient with dubious results, he decides to inject himself, but the formula turns him into a psychotic white man.
The last knockings of the brief Blaxploitation horror cycle finds all round good guy Bernie Casey stepping into the well worn shoes of Henry Jekyll (here called Henry Pryde – ha!) and following the usual path to hell, via fornication with prostitutes (well, he tries) and murder (which he manages). The theme of a righteous dude becoming an evil white man provides wonderful opportunities for both social commentary and biting satire but the filmmakers just ignore all that and instead deliver a tedious, by-the-numbers horror flick. A lot of sequences just play as poor copies of scenes from much better films and story development just descends into mindless nudity and violence, but not in a way that is remotely interesting.
One of the main problems here is Casey. He was certainly a capable actor with a strong presence, whose screen appearances include Felix Leiter in ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983), ‘The Martian Chronicles’ (1979) and ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (1989): ‘…what you’re telling me, essentially, is that Napoleon was a short, dead dude.’ But here he just blatantly ‘phones it in’, looking barely awake in most of the early scenes. He’s assisted in the lab by Rosalind Cash from ‘The Omega Man’ (1971) but, although the characters are apparently romantically involved, there have little interaction and there’s certainly no chemistry in the lab (apart from what’s going on in the Doc’s toy test tube set, of course).
SFX are almost non-existent and the ‘Hyde’ makeup seems to consist mostly of sprinkling Casey with flour and sticking cotton wool in his cheeks like Marlon Brando in ‘The Godfather’ (1972). Rather bizarrely, this was some early work by Oscar winning technical supremo Stan Winston! Robert Louis Stevenson receives no credit at all for the original story but probably wasn’t much bothered given the results on display here.
Blaxploitation horror movies were few in number. In theory, you’d think they’d have some entertainment value all these years later but the truth is that they were restricted by tiny budgets and technical limitations, and are really pretty dull. ‘Blacula’ (1972) is probably the best of the bunch and the worst, without a doubt, is ‘Blackenstein’ (1974), a film which almost sent me into a boredom-related coma. At least this isn’t that bad.