Pacto diabólic/Diabolical Pact (1969)

Pacto diabólico/Diabolical Pact (1969)‘Will it be necessary to maintain a supply of potential victims?’

An ageing scientist searches for an elixir of youth so that he can carry on his scientific researches long into the future. His quest results in a formula derived from a substance found in the human eye, but his decision to experiment on himself has unfortunate consequences…

Late 1960s ‘South of the Border’ horror flick with horror icon John Carradine taking the lead. The direction is in the hands of experienced filmmaker Jaime Salvador, who had more than 30 years of work behind the megaphone. The fact that the results lack imagination, chills and quality are probably not that much of a surprise, but there’s also an absence of the more outlandish elements that make much of Mexican cult cinema of the period so enjoyable.

The film opens in the way that all movies, of whatever genre, should begin; with John Carradine seated behind a desk, introducing the film to the audience accompanied by a skull named Jack. It’s a brilliantly pointless prologue as it doesn’t inform the story in any way, or even serve to pad the running time for more than a minute. It does provide Carradine with an opportunity to play to the gallery a little, which, of course, makes it essential viewing for anyone with a love of cult cinema. From there, we meet the veteran star in his role as scientist Dr Halbeck, busy at the operating table with his young assistant, Alfonso (Andrés García).

Pacto diabólico/Diabolical Pact (1969)

‘Never fear, Yorick, we’re doing ‘Hamlet’ next week…’

What are they up to? Noting special; just extracting the eyes from a condemned woman (Silvia Villalobos) who is about to be executed. How Carradine has permission to do this, I don’t know, but it is nice to see García following correct surgical protocol by lighting up a cigarette the moment they finish. It’s also good to see the guillotine employed as the chosen tool of state justice. To be fair to the filmmakers, it’s never clearly established where and when the film is supposed to be taking place, but I’m reasonably sure it’s not during the French Revolution.

Carradine needs the eyes because they obtain a substance vital to his experiments into an elixir of youth. As he explains to Garcia, it’s essential to the advancement of science and the human race in general, that he carry on with his great works for as long as possible. However, the sudden return to the household of his pretty young ward Miss Dinora (Regina Torné) makes us suspect that his motives may not be entirely selfless, after all. The girl has been brought up in Carradine’s care after the death of her father, and he’s enrolled her at a local science college. She’s also engaged to the handsome García.

Pacto diabólico/Diabolical Pact (1969)

‘Perhaps it was time for another manicure…’

Then, in the space of a minute, director Salvador tips his hand and tells us exactly how the rest of his story is going to pan out. Firstly, we discover that Torné’s father was Carradiune’s old mate, Dr Jekyll! Then, Carradine tells his butler that a previously unmentioned nephew is coming to stay and ‘he’s to have full run of the house.’ Yes, it’s Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale all over again, with only a few and very minor, variations.

Exhibiting the usual sound sense of scientific procedure, Carradine experiments on himself and transforms into the young and handsome Frederick (Miguel Ángel Álvarez), allowing the veteran character actor to disappear from almost the entire rest of the film. Now, you might assume that Álvarez is merely a younger version of Carradine’s character, but that appears not to be the case at all. Instead, we allegedly have two separate personalities in the one body with Carradine able to berate his youthful incarnation via the somewhat ineffectual medium of the off-screen voiceover.

Pacto diabólico/Diabolical Pact (1969)

He always preferred an eyeball with his Martini…

There’s plenty for him to complain about too because Álvarez is driven to kill! Yes, after an hour of passion with a burlesque dancer, he starts to develop the old ‘hairy hands’! It is an original excuse not to hang around afterwards, I suppose, but he returns almost at once to harvest her eyes when he realises his transformation into a monster is out of control. How he gets her eyes home in a medically hygienic manner, I have no idea. I guess he just pops them into his pocket. And why is he turning into a monster, anyway? Was that possible side-effect listed in the accompanying documentation from the pharmacist? And did he contact his professional healthcare specialist to report it?

Carradine’s continued absence from proceedings begins to worry the rest of the cast (as well as the audience) and Torné is especially suspicious when she discovers that the old professor has rearranged his bookshelves! A sure sign of dastardly intent, if ever there was one. A quick trip to the attic turns up some of her father’s old papers and, all of a sudden, García has worked out exactly what’s going on. Without any basis for his conclusions whatsoever. But his immediate elevation to the status of ‘world’s greatest detective’ is short-lived as five minutes later he is completely clueless again. Not to worry, he’s arrived at the solution (again!) by the end of the following scene.

All this is news to Torné who blithely leaves a visiting friend alone in the professor’s library to go and fetch ‘a sample.’ Álvarez attacks and drugs the girl, removes her eyes, make his potion, drinks it and disposes of her body in the furnace. All in the time it takes Torné to get back! Smart work, that. Álvarez is on form later on, too, when the missing girl’s sister turns up to make enquiries. He offers her a lift to the local cop shop and on the way suavely declares that he’s going to kill her. Never mind the coachman!

Pacto diabólico/Diabolical Pact (1969)

‘If only I hadn’t put the last leg of that accumulator on the 3:30 at Market Rasen…’

If this all sounds ‘so bad it’s good’ then the film certainly does have some wonderful moments. Unfortunately, with Carradine MIA for long periods, it also drags a lot through most of its length. There are also some questionable aspects to the monster makeup, which becomes progressively more ugly and ridiculous as time passes. In certain scenes, Álvarez is undoubtedly performing in ‘blackface’, something that rings more than a few alarm bells in this more enlightened era. There’s also a constant hum and squeaks of electronic equipment in all the laboratory scenes, which quickly becomes quite aggravating. It’s also somewhat curious, considering that Carradine’s entire scientific apparatus is a table full of jars, beakers and test tubes.

The highlight of the entire picture is a brief scene just before the hour mark when Carradine momentarily regains control of his body. Waving his hairy hands about like a manic windmill, he delivers a subtle examination of a soul in torment through a combination of very silly faces and flinging pieces of half-chewed scenery into the back row of the auditorium. It’s a tour de force of ham, and over far too quickly. Much in the manner of the late Boris Karloff, Carradine signed on the dotted line for a bunch of low-budget, Mexican productions in the late 1960s, so perhaps his lack of screen time here meant that he was off shooting another project at the same time. Although it’s more likely he was putting in some work at a local bar or out at the track. By his own admission, he took a lot of work because he liked ‘liquor, women and playing the ponies.’

A little Carradine goes a long way, but unfortunately, there’s not quite enough to go around here.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912)‘Help! Help! That monster Hyde is in my master’s study!’

Keen to prove his theories on the duality of human nature, Dr Jekyll experiments on himself with untested drugs and transforms into his deadly alter-ego, Mr Hyde. The monster runs rampant, but the police are quickly closing in…

Robert Louis Stevenson’s cautionary tale of addiction and dodgy pharmaceuticals first hit the movie screen as a filmed stage play in 1908, a version now lost. Many silent adaptations followed and there seems to be some confusion among commentators as to which order they arrived in! However, it seems pretty clear that this short, made for the Nickelodeon circuit, is the oldest surviving example. Nickelodeons were small theatres located in local neighbourhoods that showed single-reel subjects like this 12-minute dash through the classic story’s highlights.

The film begins with a shot of Jekyll’s chosen text for a discussion with a colleague. This volume goes by the wonderful title of ‘Graham On Drugs’ (although it’s not clear exactly who ‘Graham’ is, or what substances he might be using). Of course, Jekyll starts knocking back the chemicals as soon as his mate is out the door, with the usual and unfortunate consequences. Curiously enough this version of the tale takes place in a village, rather than the usual urban setting, and the good/bad Doctor’s love interest is the local minister’s daughter (Florence La Badie) rather than a vacuous socialite. Later, the old clergyman becomes the victim of Hyde’s murderous rage, this reinforcing the inevitable moral lesson about Man infringing on God’s domain.

Falling beneath the lab bench and emerging with bug eyes, bad teeth, and a worse haircut is James Cruze, who began his career acting in stock companies and medicine shows. Eventually, he moved behind the camera and became a respected director for the Paramount studio, his most famous project being Western ‘The Covered Wagon’ (1923). Here, his monstrous transformation is achieved through the simple method of stopping the camera, replacing Jekyll with Hyde, and starting to crank the handle again. Mind you, Cruze’s Hyde looks nothing like his Jekyll, so you have to give the production credit for that. Or you would if it wasn’t a different actor! Uncredited, bit-player Harry Benham revealed in a 1963 interview that he and Cruze had shared the role, probably explaining why Jekyll’s alter-ego appears a lot shorter most of the time!

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1912)

‘That’s the last time I let Poole mix my after-dinner martini…’

Stevenson’s tale hit home with Victorian audiences and continues to resonate today, with still more adaptations planned. It’s just a shame we still don’t have a definitive film of the tale, and that filmmakers feel forced to ‘reimagine’ it; telling the story from the perspective of Jekyll’s housemaid (‘Mary Reilly’ (1996) with Julia Roberts), turning Hyde into a woman (Hammer’s surprisingly good ‘Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde’ (1971)) and mining its possibilities as a musical (TV’s ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (1973) with Kirk Douglas!)

Of the ‘straight’ versions, the most famous are Oscar-winning Frederic March in ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (1931) (rather creaky by modern standards) and the 1941 MGM take with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman (both badly miscast). For my money, the best is still Dan Curtis’ TV broadcast with Jack Palance from 1968. Although the small budget shows through, it’s definitely the most literate, faithful and effective version.

Of course, this run through the familiar tale is more of a historical artefact than a fully-realised film. It’s not really possible to apply a lot of subtlety or depth when you only have 12 minutes to get your story told, but it’s an efficient enough production given the era when it was made.

It’s a shame that so many of the early film versions have not survived the passage of time, in particular German expressionist F W Murnau’s ‘Der Januskopf’ (1920), if only for the fact that JekylI’s butler was played by a pre-stardom Bela Lugosi!

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1913)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1913)‘Dr Lanyon, man of disbelief, behold!’

Dr Henry Jekyll divides his time between his charity patients and his private scientific enquiries, leaving little time for his sweetheart or social engagements. Unfortunately, his experiments began to get seriously out of hand… .

Early silent version of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson tale, which is one of the most filmed in screen history, having first been brought to the screen in a 1908 short starring Richard Mansfield. This is a longer version but still clocks in at less than half an hour, which make for a brisk pace, but often leaves the impression of ‘edited highlights’. This was actually a Universal production, arguably the studio’s first horror picture, although during the ‘golden age’ of the monster movie they were beaten to the punch by the classic MGM 1931 production, which netted Frederic March an Academy Award in the title roles.

lnevitably, when viewed today, this is a fairly crude and stilted production. A great deal of the film vocabulary that we take for granted now was still not fully formed, so we get a complete lack of camera movement, no close ups, arm waving performances and disjointed storytelling. The film also gives us no information about Jekyll’s motivations. Yes, we see him in furious conversation with colleague Dr Lanyon and lawyer Utterson, but intertitles are limited to only a few brief words. Presumably the audience of the time were familiar enough with the source material to at least have a rough idea of what was going on.

The Jekyll and Hyde transformations are executed by lead actor King Baggot either falling into shadow and allowing for a jump cut, or simply turning away from camera to mess up his hair and slip in his false teeth! Actually, it often seems that there’s little physical difference between the two characters at all, beyond Hyde’s preference for pulling silly faces, walking everywhere in a painful crouch and wearing a tall hat.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1913)

He swore he would never drink again…

There is an interesting sequence (not in the book) where Jekyll, already haunted by his transformations into Hyde, stares wistfully after a group of choristers passing in the street. The implication is made even clearer by the foregoing intertitle: ‘Dr Jekyll; martyr to science.’ Our hero has presumed upon God’s territory and is therefore damned.

It was a good year for actor Baggot and director Herbert Brenon as they also teamed up for the feature length ‘Ivanhoe’ (1913), which was another big hit. Baggot was the first actor to be individually promoted by the Hollywood publicity machine and became an international star, known variously as the ‘King of the Movies’ and ‘The Most Photographed Man in the World.’ He was a writer and director as well as a performer, functions he performed on ‘Shadows’ (1914) in which he also played 10 separate roles! Sadly, his disdain for the ‘talkies’ and an increasing alcohol problem led to a swift decline in the late 1920s and by the start of the following decade he was already playing unbilled bit parts in films like ‘Bad Sister’ (1931) with youngsters Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. He did continue working until his death in 1948; with walk on’s in productions like ‘A Day at the Races’ (1937), ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940) and ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ (1946).

Brenon had a more substantial career, although he also struggled with the transition from silent film. Sadly, the move to ‘talkies’ began at just the wrong time for him; he’d just directed the biggest film of his career, the lavish production of ‘Beau Geste’ (1926) starring Ronald Colman. It’s quite interesting to contrast Brenon’s Jekyll and Hyde with the far more famous version of the same story starring John Barrymore that came out only seven years later. Brenon certainly had brevity on his side, but in every other conceivable way, he was completely eclipsed, especially in terms of basic technique. Such was the breakneck pace of evolution in every department in the early days of Hollywood.

As with many of the earliest silent pictures, this film is more of a historical curiosity than anything else.

Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957)

Daughter of Dr Jekyll (1957)‘We’re not dealing with a man. We’re not dealing with anything human.’

A young couple visit her guardian to celebrate her coming of age, but she has a surprise waiting. She’s actually a rich heiress, but she’s also the child of the late Henry Jekyll, who locals still fear prowls under the full moon as a werewolf…

Dreary, low budget programmer with some quality talent but dismal production values and a terrible script with a mystery so transparent that it’s obvious after ten minutes exactly how the story will develop. Writer-producer Jack Pollexfen must bear the lion’s share of the blame, especially as he was just rehashing ‘The Son of Dr Jekyll’ (1951) which he’d written half a dozen years earlier!

Our leads are John Agar and Gloria Talbott, a couple with extensive histories in these kinds of shenanigans. Agar was the star of ‘Tarantula’ (1955), ‘The Mole People’ (1956) and ‘so bad it’s good’ cult classic ‘The Brain From Planet Arous’ (1957). He went onto deal with the ‘Attack of the Puppet People’ (1958), ‘Invisible Invaders’ (1959) and ‘Zontar, The Thing From Venus’ (1966) among others. He was also Shirley Temple’s first husband. Talbott began her career with bits on TV before graduating to major supporting roles in ‘We’re No Angels’ (1952) starring Humphrey Bogart and ‘All That Heaven Allows’ (1955) with Rock Hudson. But her movie career never took off and she was soon appearing in pictures like ‘The Cyclops’ (1956) (which was released on a double bill with this), ‘I Married A Monster From Outer Space’ (1958) and ‘The Leech Woman’ (1960).

Waiting at the old homestead (seen from the outside it’s a bad model surrounded by twigs) is the usual crew; a flighty maid, the ‘can do’ housekeeper and the sinister handyman. Master of the house is Arthur Shields, an Irish character actor more famous for appearances in John Ford films, specifically ‘How Green Was My Valley’ (1941) and ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952). He was probably more often that not mistaken for his brother Barry Fitzgerald, who won an Oscar for ‘Going My Way’ (1944). He fills in our golden couple on the grisly history of the place, and shows them Jerkyll’s hidden laboratory (a table with some test tubes), which is hidden behind a bookcase that moves when you look inside the helmet of a suit of armour. It appears that the good Doctor was actually a werewolf who can only be killed by a stake through the heart and having his head cut off! A strange mixture of monster mythologies to be sure!

Daughter of Dr Jekyll (1957)

‘Darling, I told you not to wear that jacket…’

The director was Edgar G Ulmer, who has since taken on cult status as a ‘low-budget auteur’ on the back of such interesting projects as ‘Bluebeard’ (1944), ‘Detour’ (1945) and Karloff-Lugosi classic ‘The Black Cat’ (1934), which was his only major studio film.

But there’s little even the most talented director could have done with this hodgepodge of clichés. For a start there’s a lot of talk of ‘trouble in the village’ but we never see that location and the population is almost solely represented by the handyman and a torch-bearing mob, who look suspiciously like they’ve been spliced in from another movie.

There’s also one of the most unconvincing screen murders ever, and Agar wearing a striped jacket that makes him look like he’s changed into his pyjamas or is about to welcome punters to his fairground sideshow. It’s worse for Talbott, who gets a horrible ‘instant victim’ role which sees her disintegrate into an extended bout of hysteria that lasts for most of the film.

Agar once said: ‘Most of my movies didn’t get released – they escaped.’ Perhaps this one would have better remained behind bars!

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1968)

Strange_Case_of_Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_(1968)‘Suppose this potion of yours did work? Suppose it did split the nature of man right down the middle? Might it not produce…a monster?’

Mild-tempered Dr Jekyll faces ridicule from the medical fraternity when he proposes his theories about the duality of man. Determined to prove the doubters wrong, he begins using chemicals to separate the good and bad sides in man. Unfortunately, he chooses to experiment on himself…

It’s fair to say that, although filmed countless times, there has never been a definitive version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic cautionary tale. Yes, Frederic March won an Oscar for playing the role(s) in 1931, and both makeup and SFX were impressive (for their time) but the rest of the film is creaky and stilted at best. The big budget MGM remake a decade later may have looked the part but suffered from the terrible miscasting of Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman. Subsequently, there’s been dramatic versions, re-imaginings, comedies, a TV musical with Kirk Douglas (yes, it’s bad) and Hammer even gave us a transgender take with ‘Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde’ (1971) (surprisingly rather good). We’ve had Christopher Lee, Michael Caine, Oliver Reed, John Barrymore, Anthony Andrews, Bernard Bresslaw, Boris Karloff, John Malkovich and even David Hasselhoff!  The list goes on. But no definitive version.

TV producer Dan Curtis had hit the big time by creating horror-soap ‘Dark Shadows’ which first hit the small screen in 1966, ran for over 1,000 episodes and has been revived several times since, including Tim Burton’s big budget remake with Johnny Depp. During the show’s original 6 year run, Curtis began developing other projects, the first of which was this serious adaptation of the classic horror story. Filming began with Jason Robards in the title roles but was halted due to industrial action. When it resumed, Robards was no longer available, so Curtis re-cast, his surprising choice being Jack Palance, mostly known for playing villains in cinema Westerns. It’s reasonable to assume that a modern audience’s expectations for a studio bound 2 hour television production from the late 1960s starring that old cowboy geezer from ‘City Slickers’ (1991) would not be high. Obviously, there were budgetary and technical limitations with such an endeavour that have not stood the test of time too well, but what it does have in its favour easily outweighs such considerations.

First, we have what is quite probably the most literate, intelligent and fine adaptation of Stevenson’s novel ever to be filmed. The original work is a fairly short piece and screenwriters are usually obliged to embellish and add elements, usually Hyde’s dalliance with a prostitute and a tiresome love interest for Jekyll in the form of a fiancee from high society. Instead, Ian McLellan Hunter takes the main elements of the story and comes up with his own version of how events develop. These are completely in tune with the spirit of the original text and open out the story perfectly. There’s a superb opening scene where Jekyll is ridiculed by his peers which provides motivation for his reckless experimentation, a shady chemist (Oscar Homolka) who provides the doctor with the necessary chemicals, and Billie Whitelaw as the good time girl abused by Hyde, who rather foolishly sets her sights on Jekyll. Purists might complain at the changes but I don’t think anyone could argue that the novel needs serious adaptation for filming purposes and Hunter makes a good a job as could be imagined, even retaining the critical subtext about Victorian society and the evils of repression in general.

Strange_Case_of_Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_(1968)

His latest batch of home-brew was not a success.

A fine cast of respected British actors talent provides excellent support, including Denholm Elliott, Leo Genn, Torin Thatcher (the nasty magician in ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’ (1958)), Duncan Lamont, and music hall star Tessie O’Shea. Although only making a brief appearance, O’Shea won an Emmy for this, which is a little puzzling. Rather amusingly, Billie Whitelaw gets an ‘introducing’ credit, despite first appearing on British TV 16 years before. Probably she was unknown to American audiences.

But the revelation here is Palance. Of course, he’d played plenty of psychotic villains in the past, but his Hyde is truly out of control; homicidal tendencies always lurking just below the surface, ready to be indulged at the slightest whim. Initially, the makeup may seem a little corny with the heavy monobrow, but, by the climax, the power of the performance transcends these limitations. Likewise the star gives us one of the best screen Jekyll’s; slowly seduced by the dark passions of his alter-ego, he becomes more assertive in his own life but ultimately cannot control his urges. It’s an excellent reading of the character, all the more remarkable when you consider the actor was a late replacement.

Of course, there are some problems. Director Charles Jarrott struggles to get any atmosphere out of the cheap, and tatty stages sets, with actor’s heavy footsteps often betraying the nature of their temporary construction. Also the camera work is uninspired, and features some unfortunate rapid ‘zooms’ which look pretty shaky. Producer Curtis and star Palance went onto collaborate on a version of ‘Dracula’ (1973), which is also well regarded in some quarters.

Definitive? Maybe not, but on balance, this is probably the best version of the tale filmed to date, and anyone looking to mount a new production could do a lot worse than look for pointers in Hunter’s excellent script.

Well worth seeking out.

The Son of Dr Jekyll (1951)

Son_Of_DrJekyll_(1951)‘Legends don’t die – they have to be killed.’

A young scientist whose researches ‘border on witchcraft’ discovers that his father was the infamous Dr Henry Jekyll, who died 30 years earlier. Determined to clear his father’s name, he opens up the old family home and starts poking through his father’s laboratory and his papers…

Minor horror programmer from Columbia Studios that stars former swashbuckler and matinee idol Louis Hayward in the title role. The film opens with a flashback to the death of Jekyll Senior, as he’s pursued down a London Street by a torch-bearing mob who would probably have been more at home chasing Frankenstein’s Monster through the alps around Ingoldstadt. They’re after Hyde because he’s just killed his wife in a cheap boarding house, leaving their infant son behind. Strangely enough, I don’t recall Hyde being married in Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story, but I can imagine that the wedding reception was a lot of fun. The torches come in handy as they burn up Jekyll’s house and the mad scientist as well. Curiously, the whole Jekyll and Hyde situation seems common knowledge 30 years later when young Jekyll faces similar treatment by the public at large.

Although the film retains some level of credibility for the first half hour, the ridiculous contrivances pile up quickly after that, demanding a higher level of suspension of disbelief that the average viewer can hope to attain. A series of crimes and events combine to put young Hayward in the cross-hairs of both police inspector Paul Cavanagh and nasty newspaperman Gavin Muir, as well as the locals who seem ready to condemn with no real evidence at all. Actually, there’s some critique about the workings of the gutter press and mob rule here, but, not to worry, it’s buried pretty deep beneath the overall silliness.

Son Of Dr Jekyll (1951)

‘My god, it was you! You wrote the script!’

In production terms, we’re in definite B-movie territory with director Seymour Friedman (‘Counterspy Vs Scotland Yard’ (1950), ‘Khyber Patrol’ (1954)) and scriptwriter Jack Pollexfen, who, rather brilliantly, turned the same trick again with ‘Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957)!  Cavanagh and Muir were refugees from the Rathbone-Bruce ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series, and Lester Matthews was the hero of Lugosi-Karloff classic ‘The Raven’ (1935). Heroine Jody Lawrence was Marilyn Monroe’s’ foster-sister when they were in their teens.

Although it’s a fairly painless way to spend 78 minutes, it’s often rather slapdash and makes little effort to remain realistic. Young Jekyll is accused of attacking a young boy, arrested the same night, and finds himself in full court facing witnesses the next day! Wow. The wheels of justice sure moved fast in the old days.

Dr Black Mr. Hyde (1976)

Dr Black Mr Hyde (1976)‘This is the last fix you’re ever gonna get from this honky, you dig?’

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).

Dr Black Mr Hyde (1976)

When Perms Go Wrong

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.