Legend Films // 1982 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // July 4th, 2008
Better living through chemistry is more complicated than one might think.
In the wake of Airplane!'s stunning box-office success came a plethora of out-of-control satire-takeoff-parody-comedies, most of which were about as funny as repeatedly pounding your thumb with a ball peen hammer. One of the earliest copycats was Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again, a no-holds-barred riff on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of duality. The film had something of a cult reputation for years, but never made it to DVD until now, courtesy of Legend Films. Is the reputation warranted, or is this just more copycat detritus?
Dr. Daniel Jekyll (Mark Blankfield, Dracula: Dead and Loving It) is the most gifted surgeon at Our Lady of Pain and Suffering. Hospital administrator Dr. Carew (Michael McGuire, Bird) has arranged for Jekyll to perform the world's first total transplant on the uber-old, uber-rich Hubert Howes (if you can't figure out that reference, just go back to watching test patterns, OK?), but Jekyll suddenly announces that he will abandon surgery in favor of research; he is convinced that boosting man's sense of self-preservation will unlock the body's innate healing powers. Further complicating matters is Jekyll's beautiful fiancée, Carew's daughter Mary (Bess Armstrong, Jaws 3). Mary is madly in love with Jekyll, but wishes he weren't so wrapped up in his work. Hoping to get Jekyll some money so that he can keep her in the style to which she has become accustomed, Mary has submitted his current research for the prestigious Putzpuller Prize; the award includes a $500,000 grant (back in the '80s, half a mil was real money). Later that day, Jekyll treats the lovely yet trampy Ivy (Krista Errickson, Mortal Passions). Jekyll is bothered and bewildered by Ivy's carefree attitude, while Ivy is somewhat charmed by Jekyll's sweet yet repressed nature.
That evening, Jekyll spills one formula on top of another; sparkly lights from the mixture let us know that something weird is happening. Our boy falls asleep at his desk, and manages to take a good snort of his tainted drug, which transforms him into the brutish, libidinous Hyde. Hyde promptly seeks out Ivy, whose band is playing at a Japanese club, and has his way with her. The next day, Jekyll wakes up next to Ivy, naked and disoriented. Realizing that his formula has worked a little too well, he attempts to flush the remaining drug, but at the last minute rescues his work. He tempts fate by taking the drug again; once again, Hyde hunts down Ivy for yet more carnal delights.
Jekyll begins to lose it; he tries to explain his plight to a colleague, but Hyde emerges again, this time without the use of the drug. Hyde needs more of the drug to maintain control, but the hospital's pharmaceutical storeroom is closed in observance of Timothy Leary's birthday. The desperate Hyde spots a telegram, informing Jekyll that he has won the Putzpuller Prize; Hyde figures that the $500,000 prize ought to keep him in Hyde-blow for the foreseeable future. He wants Ivy to go to London with him, but succeeds only in pissing her off, so that she follows him to London -- by train -- intent on killing him. Meanwhile, Mary waits at the award presentation in London, praying that Jekyll will appear. Hyde disrupts the ceremony as only Hyde can -- with a musical number! But can Hyde (or Jekyll, for that matter) survive after revealing himself (in this case, literally) to a horrified public?
Jekyll & Hyde...Together Again has the same sort of reckless abandon as Airplane!. Shots are full of multiple gags, some clever, some stupid, some both. The hit/miss ratio isn't nearly as good as Airplane!, but the hits outweigh the misses just enough to keep you watching. The middle is particularly weak, but the opening is solid, with such priceless shots as Jekyll discussing his experiments while moving past his lab mice. "Formula 136 is ineffective...little guy remains listless and depressed"; a mouse stands at one end of the cage, hunched over, whimpering. "Formula 137...must be considered a complete failure as well"; the mouse has hanged itself, pinning a tiny "Goodbye Cruel World" note to its chest.
The movie has fun with the good girl/bad girl dynamic initially developed in the 1931 film starring Fredric March, and more fully realized in the 1941 Spencer Tracy version. The more Hyde gets down with Ivy, the more Jekyll bolts towards the safety of Mary. We never see really that Jekyll is, in fact, in love with Mary, but that's OK; Jekyll continually returns to Mary because she's safe, because she represents -- in Jekyll's fevered brain -- proper society. On that level, the movie manages to capture the spirit of Stevenson's book. An unfortunate side-effect is that Mary's characterization is very inconsistent. You can sidestep that problem to an extent by telling yourself that Jekyll's idealized image of Mary and Mary's actual character are two different things; after all, the one thing Mary wants most of all is for Jekyll to jump her.
The transformation to Hyde, while low-tech, again throws caution to the wind -- particularly impressive is the way Hyde's gold rings emerge from beneath Jekyll's skin. The inevitable reversion sequence at the end is shot in the same manner as the early Hyde and Wolfman movies, with a series of shots progressing the character back to normal. Little homages like that give the movie a certain charm that glosses over some of its larger failings. For instance, towards the end, as everyone storms out of the London theater chasing Hyde, the movie abruptly shifts to black-and-white for a chase scene right out of the horror classics.
Your trivia for the day:
1. The movie features a character credited (quite accurately) as "Busty Nurse." The part is played by none other than Cassandra Petersen, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
2. George Wendt (Cheers) has a cameo as an injured man.
3. Oscar-winner George Chakiris (West Side Story) has a WTH? cameo as himself, accepting the Putzpuller on Jekyll's behalf.
Video is clean, but not particularly crisp. Polyester haberdashery aside, it looks like a fairly old movie. The stereo mix is somewhat tinny; if they had really gotten creative, they would have used the tinny mix for Jekyll and just gone completely over the top with the remix for Hyde's scenes.
The humor is very hit or miss. Sometimes it's damned funny, but sometimes it's just stupid. Of course, some parts, such as pretty much every scene in Madame Woo Woo's, manage to achieve the lofty "so stupid they're funny" status. Perhaps the biggest weakness is the acting; performances are very uneven. Blankfield never quite gets a handle on Jekyll, but flings himself so completely into Hyde that it more or less evens out. Bess Armstrong is inconsistent, hitting just the right notes in some scenes while coming across wooden in others.
The whole Hubert Howes total transplant storyline is just tedious; only two of three jokes associated with it work. The main problem is that almost all of those scenes involve Dr. Carey, who grates without being funny. If it were possible for the character to be more annoying, genetic material from both Gilbert Gottfried and Pauly Shore would certainly be involved.
If this is such a cult classic, then where the hell are the extras? We get squat. (As is this court's policies, I award the defendant five points for providing chapter stops. Manners should count for something, after all.)
This is one of those goofy movies that somehow got lost in the shuffle. If you like Airplane!, Hot Shots!, and the like, you'll probably get a kick out of this one.
I'm split on this one...Dammit! I almost made it through the whole review without going there.
Anyway, the court finds the defendant not guilty, but suggests that the defendant put a little more effort into future releases.
Review content copyright © 2008 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Legend Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Wiki: Robert Louis Stevenson's Original Story