Doctor Heckyl & Mr. Hype is a 1980 American comedy horror film written (with “apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson”) and directed by Charles B. Griffith (Up from the Depths) for Cannon. Griffith wrote a number of early scripts for Roger Corman such as Little Shop of Horrors and Creature from the Haunted Sea.
The film is a reversal of the Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, about a malformed doctor who drinks a potion and becomes a handsome – and violent – ladies man. Steve Neill provided the monster makeup for Doctor Heckyl.
Griffith says he had only three weeks to write and prepare the film, four weeks to shoot and two weeks to edit. He was paid $25,000 to write and $25,000 to direct. Griffith originally wanted Dick Van Dyke to play the lead but he was touring in a play so Golan hired Oliver Reed. Griffith said, “I had to redo the entire picture in my head when he was cast, because it was a zany slapstick comedy and I got Oliver Reed – with that face and that voice! So I made it more lyrical.”
Sunny Johnson was cast the day before shooting started; she died a few years later of a brain haemorrhage. The script was 200 pages, and Griffith admits he never had time to cut it down properly. He also said he “fought with the producers over blood and gore versus comedy, and lost as usual.”
According to Griffith: “Heckyl and Hype could have been a very good picture. Doctor Heckyl is a monster podiatrist. He is very humble and meek and helpful and nice to everybody. His attitude is that good-looking guys can get away with murder. Oliver was great as Heckyl. Wonderful. He played the part with a kind of New York accent and everything, but when he was Hype, he didn’t know how to do it… Reed played Hype as Oliver Reed, slow and ponderous. He didn’t understand my interpretation, so the picture jars, and half the people get up and walk out.”
“This film is really sloppily made. There is next to no thought put into the framing of the shots and much of the film takes place at night, so we struggle to even see any of the action at all. The sound is also really poorly done, sounding similar to the effect you would get with the build-in mic on your Grandpa’s old home movie camera. Reed’s mumblings as Heckyl are almost inaudible at times.” Forgotten Films
“It’s hard to say exactly who was the target audience for this bizarro monster comedy […] The film was an early notable misfire from the Golan and Globus incarnation of The Cannon Group […] The end result is certainly curious with more feet jokes than you’d ever imagined possible (not to mention some really odd prosthetic piggies for good measure)…” Mondo Digital
“On one end everything that transpires is kind of pathetic, but on the other end, the jokes are taken to unseen degrees of absurdity. Zaniness is one thing, but that the film means so little in a dramatic sense explains its obscurity.” Splatter Critic
“All of this is as painful as it is unfunny. Griffith relies heavily on comic sound effects, fast-motion chase sequences, and fat jokes. All of these, if you can’t already tell, reek of desperation and aren’t funny at all. Reed hams it up to embarrassing proportions and doesn’t get any laughs.” The Video Vacuum
MOVIES and MANIA says:
It’s difficult to believe that the Cannon Group green-lit this embarrassingly unfunny Charles B. Griffith project. Clearly, Oliver Reed signed up merely for the pay cheque and perhaps a holiday and yet he does seem to be enjoying himself as Mr Hype. Unfortunately, the end result doesn’t even fall into the category of so-bad-it’s-good. It’s just excruciating to watch how many of the unsutble jokes fall flat.
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