Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Man with Two Heads, The (1972)

... aka: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Blood
... aka: Man with Two Faces, The

Directed by:
Andy Milligan

By Milligan standards, this is a disappointingly dull, slow, routine and somewhat tame adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Technically-speaking, it's slightly more competent than most of his other films. He's still stuck with a microscopic budget, but in this instance the camera seems to stay on a tripod much of the time, the primary actors are decent (it was actually filmed in England using local talent), the sets and costumes look a bit more convincing than usual (maybe they were allowed to raid a theater wardrobe department instead of someone's linen closet) and the whole production has a stage play feel to it. Sadly, because it's a fairly faithful Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation, Milligan's personality seems almost completely absent from the dialogue. It's almost as if he was trying to go legit or was aiming for respectability. Either that, or someone had him on a tight leash throughout the production. There are still trademark Milligan flashes to the cinematography from time to time, such as the camera spinning around to where you can't tell what the hell is going on during most of the horror scenes, but for the most part, this is a sterile and impersonal effort. The only thing of distinction is the high level of misogyny and that it has some of the absolutely worst overlighting in the history of cinema. During most of the scenes, the actors faces are drowned out in white glare.

In merry England, a hag prostitute (who's later referred to as a "young girl") gets stabbed and gutted. After the killer is captured and commits suicide, atheist medical school professor Dr. William Jekyll (Denis De Marne) gets permission from the dead man's wife to procure the body for his studies. Jekyll's theories on how to eliminate man's criminal urges are so outlandish they've alienated from the entire medical board and he's only been able to find six students in all of Europe to teach. His students dismember the killer's corpse (they actually start hacking into it with cleavers and a hatchet!), remove the head and Jekyll uses his special formula, which isolates and treats the "evil area" of the brain, on the killer's brain. It turns the bad area blue and the deeper the blue the more evil the person.

Sensing his formula will work on humans, having already created an antidote and frustrated by the fact he's going to have to wait on a shipment of vicious animals to do further tests on, an impatient Jekyll decides to go ahead and drink the serum himself. Little does he know, but his favorite student Jack Smithers (Berwick Kaler) has accidentally erased Jekyll's antidote formula by spilling liquid on the papers. Smoke fills the room, Jekyll writhes in agony and then transforms into a misogynist alter ego with a palid appearance, a toothy grin and thick eyebrows. Clad in a top hat and cap and introducing himself as Danny, Jekyll starts frequenting a local pub and sets his sights on singer / prostitute April Conners (Julia Stratton, billed as "April Conners"). After beating a man with his cane, Jekyll accompanies April back to her apartment and then proceeds to degrade her ("You're a cheap little slut. You know that, don't you? You shouldn't be allowed on the face of this Earth. You're scum!" You're the defecation of the slums of London!"), slap her around, pulls her hair, smack her over the head, makes her bark like a dog and then burns her with his cigar. He decides not to kill her, though, and just knifes a prostitute outside after he leaves.

The next day, Jekyll wakes with ripped, blood-stained clothes but no recollection of the past evening's events. From here on out, he'll slip in and out of the Danny persona. He starts being mean to his mothering sister Carla (Jacqueline Lawrence), starts neglecting his fiance Mary Ann (Gay Feld) even more than he already was, tells his sole female student that "All women should be in bed to be used!," shows up at Jack's to stab him to death and set his house on fire, then pays another visit to April to whip her with his belt. On his third visit to April he decapitates her with a meat cleaver, but any trace of gore seems to have been removed. Things get a bit frantic with the seizure-like 'shakycam' camerawork whenever anything horrific or action-oriented occurs.

Though De Marne gives a fair performance as the tortured doctor, this is sadly both boring (with many gruelingly long talk scenes) and completely unoriginal. It's almost like an attempt at a Hammer Film, minus those film's production values and general competence. It does however have one solitary bizarro scene where Jekyll spends the evening in a hazy brothel where kinky sex and mutilation take place. Unfortunately, the copy I watched was so damn bright I couldn't even make much of it out.

Billed as "Jeremy Brooks," Gerald Jacuzzo (from the director's much more memorable TORTURE DUNGEON) has a small role. Originally filmed as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Blood, the title was changed by producer William Mishkin to cash in on the success of The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972). The only VHS releases I'm aware of in America came via Midnight Video in 1982 and then through Something Weird Video.

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