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Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde

Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  87m  •    •  Directed by: William Crain.  •  Starring: Bernie Casey, Rosalind Cash, Marie O'Henry, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Milt Kogan, Stu Gilliam, Elizabeth Robinson, Della Thomas, Marc Alaimo, Sam Laws, Judith Angeline, Janet Day, Eric Washington.  •  Music by: Johnny Pate.
       An African-American scientist develops a formula to regenerate dying liver cells, but it has the unfortunate after-effect of turning him into an albino vampire with a mania for killing prostitutes. A tough police lieutenant investigating the murders discovers the existence of the dual-personality killer, and determines to bring him in.


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Image from: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Image from: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Image from: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Image from: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Image from: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Image from: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
Hyde" is cursed by the same affliction as its protagonistvillain: it is a good movie that constantly morphs into a bad movie, until finally it's nothing more than a bad movie.

The plot starts off well, and is very intriguing at first. Dr. Pryde (Bernie Casey) is working with female colleague Billie Worth (Rosalind Cash) on a way to regenerate damaged liver tissue. He donates medical care to patients of a clinic in the Watts projects. There is some interesting tension in the movie's early scenes, as Dr. Pryde speaks frankly with one of his clinic patients, a prostitute named Linda (Marie O'Henry) that he's treating for hepatitis. Linda is an interesting character in the film, as the first time we see her, she's sitting nude on an examination table. A bold introduction for a character, especially a major one, and I don't remember many films where the director has made a move like this. Linda is very sympathetic, and Pryde seems to truly respect her, despite how some may look down on her profession.

The attitude toward prostitution in the film is very matter-of-fact, which was fairly daring for a movie made in the early 70s, and it even proves to be a pivotal plot element. Dr. Pryde has an emotional discussion with Linda about how his mother passed away, which he blames on the inhabitants of a whorehouse who refused to help her. The main three actors here (Casey, Cash, and O'Henry) are all in very good form, which helps give the movie an unusual lift in quality.

It's in the details that the film starts to go wrong. If the early scenes with Casey had not been so good, it might have been easier to accept that he descends into a dual personality after taking some of his own liver serum, which of course turns him into a rampaging beast. But considering that Pryde shows so much real interest and respect for Linda at the outset, it's impossible to understand why he would betray her the way he does. After taking a single injection of the serum himself, he then decides to woo Linda on a date, lays a big line on her about not wanting her "professional services" and simply wanting her company, and then he reveals that it was all because he wants her to allow him to inject her with the serum. We lose our sympathy for Pryde, and immediately the film unravels.

The Mr. Hyde creature is a strange one. One of the characters in the film refers to it as a "haint", which I don't get. My grandmother was southern, and I know full well that a "haint" is a ghost. Mr. Hyde is just Casey with some contact lenses, facial molds, and white makeup. It's funny how the people in the film are so easily duped by the transformation; in one scene, Hyde rampages inside a seedy bar, gets cut, and bolts outside into the parking lot, where he reverts to Pryde. His pursuers don't recognize him at all, despite the fact that he's wearing the same clothes, bleeding, and all that's changed is his complexion. Hyde doesn't even really look "white", as the movie suggests, and it's hilarious that the black folks in the movie pretend to be fooled by it. Perhaps if the makeup had been more shockingly white, it would have been an effective contrast.

It bears mentioning that the film's director also made "Blacula", a film that is eons better than this one. "Blacula" was pure silliness too, but it was very entertaining and it never betrayed its characters the way this one does. . . Hyde" also has a bigger problem: it has no thrills or chills. There is only one mild shock, when an old lady patient suddenly lunges at a nurse. There's also a fairly effective chase scene where Hyde goes after Linda in an abandoned warehouse.

Unfortunately, the remaining parts of the movie are fair to awful. The supporting cast is mostly terrible, especially the policemen who are working on the Hyde case, and it seems as if this part of the script is really badly done. The situations in the film make no sense, including one scene where Mr. Hyde uses his car to run down a pimp in an alley, and the pimp takes out his knife and attempts to "stab" the grille of the car in self defense. Whatever! Maybe if he'd hit a vital belt or gasket, he would have had a chance.

In a very strange ending, Hyde climbs the Watts towers and is shot down, just like King Kong. The image is surprisingly haunting, a human body inside the twisting metal of the tower, but it's not enough to make up for the gross sins that have come before it. It's worth mentioning that . . Hyde" is not nearly as bad as one of the other blaxploitation horror riffs, "Blackenstein"--but those of you who have actually SEEN "Blackenstein" will understand that this is not saying very much.

Review by GroovyDoom from the Internet Movie Database.