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Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)

“Mine is the face that spoils a sunny day.”

By way of Cannon Films comes this distortion of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic that plays as if it’s an updated variation on the Jerry Lewis approach minus any real belly laughs. Stranger still is the casting of Oliver Reed in the title role of the deformed Dr. Heckyll who morphs into something more akin to the brooding Ollie Reed persona we’ve all come to know and love.

Looking more like a zombie from one of today’s comedy satires on the walking dead with a hobbling gait and scratchy voice to match, Reed, stars as a meek and heavily deformed podiatrist who has been deprived of love, friendship or even a kind word due to his grotesque looks. He’s got a crush on the lovely Sunny Johnson whom he sees daily at the local bus stop who even shows up at his office for some advice on her feet but it’s a love that’s never meant to be. Not yet anyway.

In the offices of Heckyl, Hinkle and Hoo, Mel Welles as Dr. Hinkle has come up with a new potion for overweight ladies. One taste of his new weight reducing paste and these women find themselves looking like playboy models. Worried that someone may steal his new creation, he entrusts the vial of paste to Reed who will of course have a taste for himself once Welles explains it’s powers.

And just like that, the barrel chested, booming voiced Oliver Reed appears. 

It’s the middle of the night and once discovering his new look and sound, Ollie, launches into song causing the neighborhood to holler back for some peace and quiet. Then there’s the lonely lady downstairs whose hubby works the graveyard shift. It’s an instant attraction that sadly goes wrong when the new Ollie proves to have a rather bad temper and a sense of humor to match. End result? Death by electrocution to the amorous lady in the apartment below. And so the black comedy is off and running.

With a little confidence in his swagger and a gleam in his eye, Ollie’s off to the bus stop to win over his dream girl but he comes across as a pervert in a raincoat. So much so that poor Miss Johnson fears for her life at the sight of our new man. For now he’ll just have to settle for an English lass in Daisy Dukes who works the street. Not for long. Again that Ollie temper surfaces and he’s disposing body number two in the nearest dumpster.

If only the garbage collector, Dick Miller, would notice the bodies in the dumpsters he could call in local cop, Virgil Frye, to solve the murders before they get out of hand. Frye doubles as both a cop who feels no pain and one of Reed’s patients at the office. More funny business in the plot that’s just not all that funny.

And along comes the biggest laugh in the film. Dr. Hinkle’s lovely ladies are in the outer office all seated together on a couch when the weight gain comes surging back upon their bodies. The clothes stretch and tear like the Incredible Hulk’s and by the time they’ve turned into their old selves again the couch gives way under the strain. You can be sure Ollie’s next.

“That’s no monster! That’s my podiatrist.”

Another murder, this time the former 50’s pin-up gal, Corinne Calvet, and both our intrepid detective and Mel Welles are following Ollie as he roams the foggy nights. The wheels are coming off what plot we have though we do see the deformed Ollie arrested and put in a cell with Tony Cox (Bad Santa) making his film debut. Deformed Ollie will of course turn back into handsome Ollie and he’ll let Cox have some of the magical potion turning him into footballer Duane Thomas.

Zany? Not really though it’s clearly intended to be. Funny? Again not really aside from a few offside chuckles. No I didn’t watch this for the first time in over thirty years to see Jackie Coogan as a cop manning the phones at the police station. For me it’s always the Oliver Reed factor which is why I scored a copy of a recent blu ray release. I’ve been a fan since childhood. And while he may be miscast in general he still suits the Mr. Hype role. It’s the gags and script that betray him. So while this is clearly not his brightest moment on screen, there would be far inferior productions ahead of him as his career spiraled out of control in the late 1980’s.

Perhaps producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were looking to capitalize on the success of the Zucker Brother’s Airplane! released earlier in the year. Too bad Ollie didn’t reconnect with Cannon films for one of their more prestigious action films of the era. Seriously, who wouldn’t have wanted to see him as the baddie in any of the company’s action pieces opposite Norris or Bronson? Another missed opportunity from yesteryear.

Satirizing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was nothing new by this time. It had been done previously when Abbott and Costello tangled with the good doctor as enacted by Boris Karloff, Jerry Lewis’ best solo film, The Nutty Professor, and even two years after this release in 1982 a campy version was unleashed I recall from the VHS rental days, Jekyll & Hyde : Together Again. Perhaps you have a favorite comical version of the Stevenson story.

Speaking of the author, maybe those opening credits tell us all we need to know when this splashed across the screen seconds into the film ….. “With apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson.”

Finally digging way back into the vault with little Brando’s help I’ve located a poster that I don’t believe has seen the light of day for close to 40 years.  Like the movie itself it really isn’t much too look at but if your a fan of Oliver Reed growing up like I was, I guess I just had to have it.

Damn! Photo bombed again.

9 Comments »

  1. Oliver Reed was one crazy nut, but he was a good actor, and a parody of a story like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde seemed right up his alley. He and my Dad share February 13th as their birthday (My Dad’s younger than Reed)

    • I love reading a good story on Ollie. A true hell raiser and number 1 in my books over the likes of Harris and Burton at causing trouble after a friendly drink. My Dad was actually born the same year as Ollie. Cheers’.

  2. I went to tons of movies in the early ’80s, and there was a certain time I’d avoid, and this would’ve been one of them. My first-ever movie walkout was ‘The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu’, and this one might’ve been my second. I’m guessing the photo of Brando peeking out from behind the poster was ten times more humorous than the film!

    • Well it does struggle for laughs. I too saw Fu Manchu at the theater with a bunch of other youngsters. We didn’t leave but it was a sad ending to Peter’s career. Someone us kids loved dearly thanks to the Clouseau films. I guess if you like Reed this might be worth the time but no it’s not all that good.

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