Sunday, May 2, 2021

Strange Case of Dr. Jeckel & Ms. Hyde, The (1990)

... aka: Dr. Jeckel & Ms. Hide
... aka: Dr. Jeckel and Ms. Hide

Directed by:
Michael Craig

This isn't the first, nor would it be the last, X-rated take off on the famous Robert Louis Stevenson tale. Some of the earlier erotic versions include the mean-spirited softcore flick The Jekyll & Hyde Portfolio (1971), which played out much more a like traditional horror film than most of these others, and the comedic The Amazing Dr. Jekyll (1975) starring Harry Reems, which actually is quite funny at times. A later serious hardcore version, Jekyll & Hyde (1999), directed by Paul Thomas and starring Taylor Hayes, actually had a budget and was shot on location in Budapest, Hungary. However, being from the late 80s VHS era, the version we'll be taking a look at today was shot on video in the Las Vegas area with next to no budget and a bare minimum of production values. The cast are basically tasked with carrying the entire load here, so to speak.

More than anything else, this is in the family of body switch comedies, which were seeing a resurgence in popularity at the time due to such releases as Like Father Like Son (1987), Vice Versa (1988) and 18 Again! (1988). There were other films that, while technically not body switch films, certainly tread similar ground. The most noteworthy of these was the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated Big (1988), which featured a kid suddenly having to adjust to the adult working world after magically waking up in Tom Hanks' adult body. There were also a number of films from this time featuring men being turned into women, including the Chuck Vincent-directed Cleo/Leo (1989), which was actually much better than the big budgeted Switch (1991) directed by Blake Edwards. This one basically falls into this same category. The granddaddy of all these was the Hal Roach comedy Turnabout (1940), where a bickering husband and wife switch bodies, and the genre touchstone is Hammer's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1972) starring Martine Beswick as Jekyll's seductive and murderous alter ago. The female "Hyde" side was also featured in The Adult Version of Jekyll and Hyde (1972) and, being played for laughs, the unsuccessful big budget Sean Young vehicle Dr. Jeckyl and Ms. Hyde (1995).

After months of research at his secluded mansion lab, Dr. Douglas Maxner (Mike Horner) has come up with a new hallucinogenic "hormonal stimulant" that he hopes will reduce aging to the point where man can become immortal. Lacking any test subjects, he decides to try the serum out on himself and immediately passes out after taking it. When he comes to, he's not quite himself and has made some interesting bodily transformations. Well, he's actually temporarily turned into the hot-bodied Ashlyn Gere. Gere stays in the home, pretends to be the doctor's friend visiting from out of town and starts going by the name Maxie Douglas. After a sharp pain to the abdomen, the doctor can transform back and forth between male and female bodies, which enables him to have sex with whoever he wants, which is basically anyone who happens to be in the same room at the same time. Unlike many other films of this type where the male protagonist in his female form retains his previous sexuality and uncomfortably squirms away from men hitting on them, here "he" gladly has sex with other men and enjoys it.

Douglas / Maxie first has a "wonderful experiment" with pushy butler Manny (Randy West) on the couch before moving on to maid Joanie (Madison Stone) in the bedroom. Douglas' womanizing, arrogant friend Lance (Peter North) stops by and invites him on a blind date ("There's nothing more important than shoving your love sword between some thighs of some wailing babe.") At a restaurant, he meets blonde Michelle (Champagne) and the two instantly fall in love. Michelle is impressed he seems in-tune with his sensitive, feminine side. Her lesbian friend / sometimes lover Sondra (Celia Young) suggests "He's a faggot! He's a girl stuck inside a guy's body! Trust me I know about these things!" to which Michelle assures her "But he doesn't kiss like a faggot would. It's really very good!" Celia, however, is not convinced: "Come on. What man's gonna pass up the chance to share two lesbians on the path of heterosexual righteousness?"

Douglas eventually decides he's had enough of his Maxie persona and needs to "ungirl" himself so he can be with Michelle full time. That requires an antidote which requires Maxie seducing Lance (not a difficult task obviously) and then having him spooge inside a coffee mug (?!)

The good news is that the star, who was experienced in theater and R-rated B movies prior to this, is a much more skilled actress than is the norm for this kind of film. Not that it matters so much here as scriptwriter Mark Weiss gives her little to actually do and doesn't take the premise to many interesting comedic or dramatic places. Still, she delivers her lines far better than any of her costars and at least gets one amusing scene trying to figure out how to put on a bra for the first time. After paying her dues with a string of similar SOV adult films in the early 90s, Gere eventually moved up to better-quality 35mm productions. In between her adult films she also continued to land mainstream acting gigs in both film and TV before retiring in the early 2000s.

As far as the sex scenes are concerned, they're passable but nothing really stands out either. There are four straightforward male/female sex scenes and one girl-girl scene between Champagne and Young (who apparently committed suicide in 1992). Gere was certainly utilized better elsewhere.

Bakeneko Toruko furo (1975)

... aka: 怪猫トルコ風呂
... aka: かいびょうとるこぶろ
... aka: Haunted Turkish Bathhouse, A
... aka: Kaibyô toruko buro 
... aka: Mysterious Cat in a Turkish Bath
... aka: Phantom Cat Turkish Bath

Directed by:
Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

It's 1958 and a new "anti-prostitution act" has got into effect in Japan. That means sex workers in the Red Light District of Tokyo are soon going to have to either change professions or risk being thrown into prison. Instead of closing up shop and just tossing his girls out into the street, sleazy brothel owner Genzô Kakinuma (Taiji Tonoyama) decides to revamp his establishment into a hammam, or Turkish bathhouse. The new rule is that the owner will now merely "rent" the girls a spa room and whatever they decide to do with their clients is entirely up to them. In other words, business as usual, except Genzô will now legally be off the hook if any of the ladies are busted. All of his workers agree to the new arrangement except for Yukino (Naomi Tani). She's fallen in love with Yûzô Shikauchi (Hideo Murota), who's not only promised to marry her and give her a more respectable life but also let her sheltered teenager sister Mayumi (Misa Ohara), who has dreams of becoming a dressmaker, move in with them from the country.

Unfortunately for Yukino, she's picked the biggest scuzzbucket in all of Tokyo to hook up with. Shikauchi claims to be indebted to gangsters and has no way of paying them back 500,000 yen he's stolen, thus coercing Yukino to go to the bathhouse and beg for a job to help pay off his debt. Unbeknownst to her, he's actually in cahoots, and is having an affair with, the bathhouse owner's sadistic wife Utae (Tomoko Mayama). He's already taken money for a three year contract for Yukino that she has no clue she's even under.

Not scummy enough yet? Well then... While Yukino is busy slaving at the bathhouse, Shikauchi decides to rape her kid sister. When Yukino returns home and discovers what's happened, Shikauchi beats her up. And when Yukino discovers she's pregnant, Shikauchi, Utae and some of the girls tie her up to a pole outside and beat and prod her with a bamboo pole to make her miscarry the baby. That attack not only kills the baby but also Yukino herself. Shikauchi and Utae then plaster the body up behind a wall Poe-style and go about their business.

Several months pass and the bathhouse turns out to be a huge success; so much so that Genzô hopes to franchise and open up another such place in New York City. However, he has no clue that his wife and Shikauchi are plotting against him. They stab him to death, hide the body then arrange a marriage with Genzô's crippled, piano playing daughter Natsuyo (Terumi Azuma), which ends with Natsuyo slitting her wrists after Shikauchi rapes her. All the while, Yukino's beloved black cat Kuro and her now-hardened sister, who's gotten a job at the bath and uses her trademark full body massage technique "Naked Dancing" to quickly become the most popular girl there, lurk in the background and plot their revenge.

After Kuro is decapitated and some of the girls try to drown her sister in a well, Yukino finally decides she's had enough and bursts out of the wall in the basement as a fabulous white-faced cat demon in a white flowing gown, silver fright wig and gold contact lenses. The cat woman hisses, flies, flips, hangs upside down, slashes people with her long white fingernails, rips out guts and a throat, pokes out eyeballs and bites an ear off. Even after being decapitated, Yuriko's flying head continues to attack. There are several cat attacks, a severed hand left as an offering outside a door, lots of colorful lighting and (the main reason the film was made in the first place) loads of T&A provided from numerous attractive Japanese actresses.

The first hour of this one is mostly heavy drama with sex / nude / rape scenes uneasily punctuated with comedic bits involving goofy male bathhouse guests making ridiculous faces while women rub up and down on them. We definitely could have used much more haunted bathhouse action instead since it doesn't even occur until the last 25 minutes and that part is a hell of a lot of fun. But as silly as this is, judging it against other softcore erotica, it's vastly superior to most films of this type from a technical standpoint and that counts for something. It looks great and is well-made, very nicely shot and lit and has some unexpectedly clever directorial touches.

I've not seen enough of these things yet to be familiar with the cast. Apparently leading lady Tani is considered one of the top actresses of such films and is often dubbed the "Queen of Pink" and "Queen of S&M." She was a big star in Japan and many of her films, like the 1974 duo of Flower and Snake and Wife to Be Sacrificed, were huge box office hits in Japan. Few of these were released to theaters here in America though, so her greatest exposure to U. S. audiences during her heyday was when Playboy magazine tapped her for a 1968 pictorial titled "The Girls of the Orient."

The director, best known for his Delinquent Girl Boss and Sister Street Fighter movies, also made the genre film Wolf Guy (1975) starring Sonny Chiba, which I've heard is far crazier than this one so I'm certainly forward to it!

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