Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)

Oh sweet fuckin’ Christmas have I got a treat for you this week.

Most wouldn’t think this about me (you know, because I’m a pretty pasty white dude and all), but I love, and I mean LOVE, blaxploitation movies.  They are so fucking cool that I dare you to present to me any five cool guys, and I promise you their combined coolness cannot match up to a single one of the blaxploitation flicks of the 70s.  The ones that are so much cooler than anything in this universe, like Shaft, Superfly, or [insert Pam Grier movie here], you are going to have a real hard time presenting the top 100 coolest people in the world and me say that they are collectively cooler than any of the best of the best in blaxploitation.

Anyway, a lot of different films fell into this category. Most were crime movies featuring the main characters either being crooks, pimps, or cops.  But there were horror films too.  The most notable, of course, was Blacula.  As it would turn out, Blacula was also directed by William Crain, who directed this week’s feature, Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde.  I think it’s pretty safe to say ol’ Billy Crain had a pretty good handle of black horror movies.

What drew me to this film originally wasn’t so much the blaxploitation part of it.  It wasn’t the lineage to Blacula.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, this would have been seen anyway, but what made this a must-see for me is the trailer.  In a B-Movie Enema first, I am including the trailer below (NSFW and contains a brief moment of nudity):

I don’t think I need to even include the plot summary from the back of my DVD box.  I mean, if you didn’t get the gist from the fucking badass rhymes busted by the narrator, just turn back now because you ain’t cool, ya dig?

Our movie begins with our protagonist, Dr. Pryde (played by Bernie Casey), and his colleague, Dr. Worth (Rosalind Cash) talking to some dignitaries who expose the fact that Pryde is an award winning research physician.  While he does his research on a way to eradicate liver diseases, he provides services at the Watts Free Clinic & Thrift Shop – which is pretty fucking awesome.  But not nearly as awesome as the hooker (Marie O’Henry) that he gives a checkup to who is just flat out topless on his examining table.  She’s recovering from Hepatitis and he’s helping her with treatments, but that doesn’t stop her from telling him that he’s not black enough to care about those who struggle when he reminds her that prostitution isn’t the healthiest of professions.

After returning to his research lab, Pryde is met by Worth, who also seems to be his girlfriend or wife or side piece of ass or something…  She asks him out to dinner, but he declines due to having this “pretty heavy thing with a guinea pig goin’ on” which might just be the coolest way out of something ever.  When he sticks the test subject with his test serum, the animal’s hair turns white and becomes aggressive.  When he wakes up from working all night, he finds the guinea pig has killed the others.  He makes note that to really get conclusive results, he needs a human subject.

The fates smile upon Pryde as a super sick old lady is brought in with liver problems.  This old lady has no next of kin, so Pryde decides to try out his formula on her, despite Worth’s objections.  She just pleads that “It’s not right” and you know what, she’s fuckin’-A right it isn’t!  You can just go around and stick people with shit.  As evidenced by the old lady being turned into a pale skinned monster lady who tries to kill a nurse before straight dying.

Now might be a good time to talk about Rosalind Cash’s Billie Worth in this movie.  Now, Cash was a solid actress.  She was beautiful, she was talented, and she had many credits to her name before dying young in the mid-90s.  That aside, her character in this movie is about the most soft spoken and motherly research physician ever.  She delivers all of her lines like she’s really just saying “It’s alright honey, I know you’re doing your best” to a small child.  And despite saying he shouldn’t be testing his formula on humans, she doesn’t put up much fight or does any kind of a job to convince Pryde that what he’s doing is utterly batshit insane.  Okay, end of sidenote…  Let’s continue with the flick.

Pryde injects himself with his formula and guess what?  He becomes a fucking white-skinned monster with some crazy hair!  Like we didn’t see this coming.  Well, as the audience we sure as hell saw this coming, but did he not read the nurse’s report about her being attacked by a monster lady?  The same lady, I would add, he gave the same formula he gave himself?  Dr. Pryde might just be a brilliant man, but, goddammit, he’s been given nothing but failure in his trials.  The guinea pig died, the old lady died, Billie’s telling him that he shouldn’t be using this on people…  Need I say more?

So whenever Pryde turns into a monster, he just goes out into the streets and stirs up trouble.  He approaches three fellas on the street, who point out that he kinda looks like he doesn’t belong in this part of town.  Get it?  His skin is now white, his eyes are blue, he’s kind of a white guy now.  After they wouldn’t tell him where his hooker patient’s bar where she can be found is, he just beats the holy livin’ shit out of the guys and makes his way there on his own.

Can this character be named anything other than Silky? The answer is no.  He cannot.

So Linda, the prostitute that Pryde is treating for Hepatitis, is looking to get out of the life of turning tricks.  This is where we meet her pimp, Silky, who is EXACTLY what you’d expect from a blaxploitation pimp.  This essentially begins to expose the subplot of this movie.  A white pimp wants Silky to hand over Linda.  However, Linda wants out.  To add to that, the very thing that Pryde is working on that is turning everything into a fucking monster will repair Linda’s liver from her bout with Hepatitis.

When Monster Mash Pryde shows up to talk to Linda, he lays waste to everyone in the lounge who tries to keep him away from her.  So not only is there this whole idea that Linda wants to be a better person, then Pryde being a decent dude, then him turning into a monster, but in his monster form, he’s obsessed with Linda.  He escapes from Silky’s roughs and turns back to normal, which leaves them to ask if he’s seen a white dude running in that direction.  See?  Pryde’s monster serum makes him white.  And a monster.  So he’s a bad guy.

The following day, Linda comes in for her shot for her Hepatitis.  Pryde asks Linda out to dinner to talk to her about some stuff but without the “hanky panky”.  When the doc gets back to the lab, Billie tells him she knows he used the serum on the old lady and that there was more missing.  She reveals she loves him but that he’s not seeing her as someone who cares deeply for him and storms out.  That doesn’t stop him from going to pick up Linda (who is dressed in a black sequin dress and a big ol’ afro wig like she’s either Diana Ross on stage or DEFINITELY a hooker).

They have dinner and he tells her to come back to his house for a surprise.  Now, you might think he’s going back on his no hanky panky promise, probably because when you are going on a date with a girl in a full length sequin dress, you definitely have sex with her because she’s probably good to go.  Actually, he tells Linda a story about how his mother used to work at a whorehouse that he now lives in that was left to his mom.  She got sick and died one night and that’s why he’s working on this liver formula.  This telling was dramatic and if I was a voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, I would have voted the shit out of Casey so they would have played this clip at the awards show about his mom working in a whorehouse.  After inviting her inside, he tells her about the serum, about how it will cure her permanently, and tries to convince her to become his guinea pig, but she refuses, even after he insists.  So he cuts a deal with her by injecting himself first to prove to her she is safe.

Guess what…  He becomes a monster and she tries to escape before he can inject her.  The doc goes out for a midnight ride.  The following morning, two kids are playing in what can only be described as a burned out building from the Watts riots,  There, they find the body of a naked girl who had her neck crushed.  A black cop tells a white cop that it’s going to be hard to get anything from the black community and that “somebody put some shit in the game.”  I have no idea what the fuck that means, but it was cool whatever it was.

So, just after Linda watched what she thought was a close friend turn into a goddamn monster, she’s back out in the lounge hooking.  Just a couple blocks away, the doc is around, but comes across one of Linda’s hooker buddies and kills her.  Now, if I was Linda, I’d be playing it cool for a bit.  But now two hookers are dead, and the police is starting to see connections to Jack the Ripper (ahem…  Guys, this is a take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, not Jack the Ripper).  Still, Linda is out hooking at her normal spot that the doc knows all about.  Is there only one place hookers hang out to pick up tricks?  Is Linda desperate for cash or just stupid?

The black and white cop comes into the lounge to get some info about the dead hookers, and as predicted by the black cop, they don’t get far with questions.  However, Linda tries to help and I start to wonder if this film was poorly edited.  There are dead people with some seriously monstrous stuff happening to them, and she just saw a guy become a monster.  However she says nothing.  She doesn’t even seem affected by all that’s happened.  To add to that, things are escalating.  Pryde is attacking hookers all over the place, tossing them around and running them over(!) and runs down Silky with his Rolls Royce – ultimately running him into a wall and then backing up and squashing his head between the car and a brick wall.  The following morning, the doc sees that there is red stuff all over the front of his Rolls.  Huh…  I wonder how that got there.

He doesn’t think anything of it, though, until he sees the front page of the paper saying there are three more deaths in Watts.

It starts to register with Pryde that things are not going so well.  He’s waking up in precarious situations, he’s going a little crazy, and it seems as though he’s addicted to his own serum.  Well, we’re not given much to prove that, but it’s what I want to happen here.  I mean I guess it’s alluded to, but I don’t know for sure that he’s understanding that he’s also Monster Man.

After Billie invites the doc to Bear Mountain to have a romantic getaway, he meets up with Linda and she begs him to turn himself in.  Now, we’re finally given his motivations…  He admits that he is doing the killings as revenge for how the whores in the whorehouse he lives in let his mother die.  Linda goes to the cops and tells them about that Pryde’s the killer.  The cops are a little more than suspicious about this story of a black man who turns white at night.  However, Lt. Jackson (guess which one between the black and white cop is named Jackson), goes to speak to Billie and starts digging into Linda’s accusation, but when he starts to ask about their research, Billie tells him she can’t tell him about it due to confidentiality.

I mean I guess he’s white, but he still looks like a black guy to me.

That night, again, Linda goes out to turn tricks, but Pryde is waiting for her.  He kills Linda’s best friend, roommate, and mother of two all to a bitchin’ slap bass soundtrack.  Heh… Bitchin’ slap bass soundtrack because Linda’s a hooker and hookers are often bitch slapped by pimps.  Pretty perfect choice there, music guy.  Anyway, Linda successfully hides from Pryde in an abandoned shop, but when she tries to leave by the backdoor, Pryde is there and tears her from the building and carries her off.  When Jackson and his partner pursue, Jackson says he thinks they are dealing with a “haint” which is described as a “cross between the abominable snowman and Willie the werewolf” (the best description of something I’ve never heard of that I’ve ever heard).  Pryde goes into the Watts towers and climbs one where he is eventually shot down and falls to his death in front of both Billie and Linda (talk about two ladies that are going to have complicated relationships going forward, sheesh…).  Billie comforts the dying Pryde, who has reverted back to his old self by saying she loves him.  He responds with spitting up some blood which kills any chance for a goodbye kiss.

While I will still say this movie was pretty poorly edited, due to Linda seemingly nonplussed about being out in her regular areas turning tricks with a madman out on the loose (a madman she pretty much knew who it was the whole time), this is pretty on par with low budget horror movies at the time.  It’s nothing more than a monster movie with nudity and quite a few more black people than most of the horror movies made up to this point.  There’s a little more seriousness to it because Casey is playing a well-respected, black doctor, and his whole spiel about his mom dying in a whorehouse.  That doesn’t really take away any craziness from the movie.

This movie is utter bonkers.  I mean, the idea is that this well-respected black guy creates a serum that, as actually stated in the movie, turns him white and causes him to start perpetrating crimes against hookers (he’s not too discriminating about the color of the hooker) is pretty next level.  I get it, this is a time in which the urban, black community was none too trusting of white folk, but the idea is still kinda crazy and almost, seemingly, a parody.  A parody, I might add, which is several levels above and better than anything the Wayans are doing.

One super cool thing, though, is that the guy who designed the monster version of Pryde?  None other than Stan Fuckin’ Winston.   Yes!  Stan Winston, creator of the Terminators, some penguins from Batman Returns, and a bunch of other shit I’m too lazy to look up, created our monster.  It wasn’t much more than covering Bernie Casey in white powder (probably cocaine) and putting blue contact lenses into his eyes, but I’m guessing they couldn’t afford a really stellar Stan Winston creation.

Oh, and I did find a picture of a “haint”…


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