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  Dr Black, Mr Hyde The Dreaded DoctorBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: William Crain
Stars: Bernie Casey, Rosalind Cash, Marie O'Henry, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Milt Kogan, Stu Gilliam, Elizabeth Robinson, Delia Thomas, Marc Alaimo, Sam Laws, Judith Angeline, Janet Day
Genre: Horror, Trash
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Henry Pride (Bernie Casey) is a pillar of the community, working at the Watts free clinic for humanitarian reasons and always willing to help out the poor of the district if he can, although they don't always listen to his advice. Take prostitute Linda Monte (Marie O'Henry), who has a liver condition that he is attempting to cure: he tells her she would be healthier if she got a proper job and became respectable but she likes the money she gets and does not fancy the nine to five, telling him he's too white in his views. If there's one thing Pride can do for her, and for others like her, it is to invent a serum which would restore livers, but his experiments have unforseen consequences...

Unless you've taken a look at the title, in which case you'll be ahead of the characters in respect of what happens. There were a string of horror movies as part of the blaxploitation cycle of the seventies, and the director here, William Crain, had already brought Blacula to the world so why not an African-American version of another venerable shocker? If anything, this looked even cheaper than the previous film, in spite of having Tak Fujimoto as the cinematographer and Stan Winston taking care of the makeup. That makeup was notable for turning Casey into a white man, although not a very convincing one as he looks more anaemic in his villainous guise than actually a different race.

Race is on the film's mind, as from some angles this could be a study of black self-loathing, with Pride's disgust at the way his neighbourhood has been overrun with crime, drugs and prostitution brought out in his alter ego whenever he succumbs to the effect of his serum, which naturally he has to test on himself. If this sounds pretty heavy stuff for what is a cheapo exploitation flick, then it's true that the racial themes don't really stand up to scrutiny: if Pride felt so much hatred for his community, what on earth was he doing helping out there when he could have a cushy job at a wealthy private hospital? But he has to have this tragic side to his personality that makes his fall from grace all the more heartfelt.

This means there's a would-be tearkjerking part where Pride confesses to Linda, who he is now preferring to spend time with instead of his girlfriend Dr Billie Worth (Rosalind Cash), that his mother worked as a maid in a local brothel, became an alcoholic due to her circumstances, and died of liver failure. See, it's not enough that our hero should be doing his civic duty and curing liver disease, he has to have a soap opera styled reason for it as well, or he does here at any rate. Anyway, his trials on rats should have alerted him to the fact that the formula would have side effects, as the black rat he tested it on turned white and killed all his rodent buddies when placed back in his cage with them.

Not only that, but a little old lady is brought into the clinic and Pride injects her too, leading her to spring to life briefly, attempt to strangle a nurse and promptly expire. Still the doctor has no idea about what he is getting mixed up in, and the inevitable happens when he turns the serum on himself. This renders him more light grey than white, but we get the idea, although whether his other self is in fact a racist white man is none too clear; what we do know is that he doesn't like pimps and their girls much. The scenes where Mr Hyde starts flinging the lowlifes around are somewhat hilarious, especially as the effects appear to have taught the monster kung fu - although Bruce Lee never used a move where he grabs his opponent's balls - and it's all a bit hard to take seriously. Mr Hyde ends up getting confused with King Kong and climbing the Watts Towers for a showdown with the cops, during which he develops a curiously girly scream, but novelty value tends to eclipse whatever serious black versus white controversy the film is trying to put across. Music by Johnny Pate.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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