Movie Review: Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)

Synopsis: A kind but physically deformed Dr. Henry Heckyl tries to kill himself by overdosing on a diet drink. Instead of dying, he is transformed into the handsome Mr. Hype. At first, this seems like an improvement, especially since women are attracted to his new form. However, Mr. Hype turns out to be a blood-thirsty killer.

Who's in it? The movie stars Oliver Reed, Sunny Johnson, Virgil Frye, Mel Welles and Jackie Coogan.

Review: My daughter had to watch a movie based on the book Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for her Gothic Literature class and, mostly because this was readily available on Epix, it ended up being the film we picked out. Had it not been for her class assignment, I honestly believe I would have shut this movie off long before it was over.

To be fair, the premise is actually a pretty good one. I like how the movie modernizes the book while doing a bit of a role reversal by having Dr. Heckyl (Reed) being the personality that is deformed while Mr. Hype (also Reed) is a handsome ladies' man. Unfortunately, the movie's execution left a lot to be desired and it failed to live up to its potential as a result.

Frankly, I think a huge part of this movie's problem was the casting of Reed as the main two characters. I'll be honest, I'm not overly familiar with his other movies/roles but this film made me wonder if maybe comedy wasn't really his forte. I felt like he came off stiff and unemotional throughout the movie and, at times, seemed like he didn't really understand how his character was supposed to be acting. As a result of that, many of the jokes just didn't have the same effect as they might otherwise have had.

Partly because of Reed's performance, I also think maybe this movie would have been better had it not tried to be a comedy and, instead, attempted to be more of a straight-up thriller. The movie had excellent and proven source material with just enough of a twist to make it unique. The poorly executed (and possibly poorly written) jokes just seemed to be a bit out of place in a film that had the perfect set up to be a memorable horror movie.

Final Opinion: I understand what the filmmakers were attempting to do with this movie and, maybe with a different lead actor and possibly a more experienced comedy director (Mel Brooks?) this could have been a unique and funny movie. However, the end result was a film that had the potential to be a halfway decent horror movie but was ruined by a failed attempt at being funny. I just didn't care for it as a result.

My Grade: D


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