I'm on a winning streak. I would hate to jinx it, but it's been awhile since I've seen an irrevocably scrimpy dud. Fuck, I jinxed it; I just know it. Let's hope my providential luck continues past Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. This 1976 blaxploitation wassail (or wingding, if you prefer) was directed by William Crain. Ring any bells? Doubt it, but I'll forgive you...this time. Crain helmed 1972's Blacula, one of my favorite vampire romps of all time. He wasn't particularly prolific in the horror genre, though his modest contributions are well-renowned in the Coccaro household. If his terrifying talkies (ugh) are any indication, he espoused simple doctrines. Uno! Let the story do the talking. Dos! Let the actors do their job.
With Blacula, Crain was afforded the talents of a master thespian. I'm sure that having a guy like William Marshall at his disposal made principal photography relatively painless. With Dr. Black, he was lucky enough to land Bernie Casey. I shouldn't have to explicate a highly wrought synopsis. You know the score. The dispermic Castor and Pollux dichotomy that drove the original Robert Louis Stevenson novella sees a mad scientist guzzle a serum that transforms him into a grotesque monster. There. That wasn't highly wrought, now was it? Needless to say, the script does make minor adjustments to the literary classic. Dr. Pride (no, his last name isn't Black) devotes his life to researching a cure for cirrhosis of the liver.
His mother died from liver problems. She expired on the floor of a bordello where she worked as a maid. In consequence, Pride developed a deep-seated disdain for prostitutes. When an experimental drug brings out his inner beast, he targets street corners with the mortiferous tact of Jack the Ripper. Yay for dead hookers! What is it about the naked corpse of a whore that brightens a b-movie? Eh, don't answer that question. I was taken aback by Dr. Black. At this point, it shouldn't surprise me that a blaxploitation reel was written with depth and social commentary in mind. Dare I say it, this subgenre is scandalously underrated. To the writers of pictures such as J.D.'s Revenge and Fight For Your Life, these films were a cut above drive-in padding.
The dialogue is realistic. As cliched as it may sound, Dr. Black tackles sobering issues that still resonate with those who reside in impoverished areas. I was practically raised on the streets, so I know what's up. I gotta come correct. Every day, I be hustlin' and movin' pussy around the projects. Don't fuck with me, muthafucka. I said, don't FUCK...woah, sorry. At any rate, I was acutely entertained by Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. The pace is stout, the cast is savvy and the violence is physical. Our "Hyde" could pass for an albino zombie, so that's cool. The make-up effects are superannuated. It's an old-fashioned Universal-style approach to villainy, and I appreciate the added elbow grease.
Conversely, I didn't buy Dr. Pride's transition from a straight-laced philanthropist to a self-seeking mercenary. It felt forced. That's the only objection I have. Yeah, it's implied that the injections change his personality, but in my opinion, his psychosomatic u-turn is too abrupt. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got money to collect. Bitches better have my fuckin' money!
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 10:57 PM