Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Joining the ranks of Blacula and Blackenstein comes this variation on the famed Stevenson novel. Arguably better than Blackenstein it’s no where near as enjoyable as Blacula where William Marshall takes on the vampire role.
Coming at the end of the blaxploitation craze we have Bernie Casey taking on the lead role of a well meaning doctor looking into curing liver disease. In no time at all the plot has him firmly believing his experimental drug is the answer to the problem. This despite the fact that a lab rat turns from black to white and tears apart the other rodents in the same cage.
Turning away from the advice of Rosalind Cash of The Omega Man fame, Casey tries the drug out on himself and following the lead of all those screen Jekylls before him, drops to the floor writhing in agony. As if by magic his hair turns white and his skin does the same thanks to a healthy dose of baby powder applied by the films’ make up artist. In essence he’s become an albino with a a temper.
He quickly goes hunting for a local prostitute played by Marie O’Henry whom the good doctor has tried to help get off the streets. This is when we the viewers are treated to Stu Gilliam playing a character named Silky the Pimp. It’s characters like these that gave the Wayans Brothers the perfect targets to lampoon in I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.
With prostitutes being murdered, O’Henry pieces the puzzle together thanks to a pedestrian script that unfortunately our police inspector Ji-Tu Cumbuka can’t quite figure out for himself. Once she sets him straight and Casey goes into his final transformation it’s all a question of how he will meet his demise and of course turn back to normal at the final fade out as is the genre’s custom.
It’s all a low budget by the numbers affair with a poorly orchestrated script and outside of Casey and Cash, some pretty lame performances to boot. But it is cheesy and that’s the films saving grace if it has one. “So bad it’s good.” Maybe. Given a choice I’ll stick to Blacula for repeated viewings.
Whenever I come across Casey in a film I like what I see. He’d been around for a while by the time of this film including a turn as one of the Seven in the Guns of the Magnificent Seven. He was also a member of Sharky’s Machine. A film I love revisiting despite it’s obvious flaws and short comings.
This was my first viewing of this take on the Jekyll and Hyde theme. It’s one of those films I thought I’d never come across until it was put out by VCI for the home video market if you are so inclined.