If director John Carl Buechler’s adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was just really bad, or just really stupid, then it might have been able to pass itself off as a bit of fun trash. After all, it isn’t unheard of that a film can be bad or stupid and still be entertaining. Unfortunately, this version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of duality is both bad and stupid—two unpleasant cinematic tastes that do not taste great together. The end result is a film that sadly can’t even be compared to a train wreck so much as a car accident between a Ford Pinto and an AMC Pacer.
Buechler’s take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transplants the story from Victorian England to contemporary Los Angeles. Tony Todd stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll, a leading research scientist experimenting with “nanotechnology” that can be used to cure any and all ailments—including his bad heart. Of course, this leads Jekyll to experiment on himself, resulting in his transformation into Eddie Hyde. Wearing a bad wig and covered in prosthetic make-up that looks like it was created by two stoners who read too many back issues of CineMagic, Hyde is a ridiculous looking madman who terrorizes nubile young women. A series of women who have been mutilated, cannibalized and, in some cases sexually assaulted after being killed lead the cops (Tracy Scoggins and Steve Wastell) to Jekyll, who, feeling guilt for the crimes committed by Hyde, keeps donating money to either the victims or their families.
Jekyll doesn’t seem to realize that he actually is Mr. Hyde, or at least that’s the implication, as the film often has them interacting together, trying to create some sort of illusion that perhaps they are two different people. Whether or not this trick is meant to make the audience think the two men are separate or it is simply a stylistic choice becomes irrelevant, because it seldom works either way. None of Jekyll’s co-workers or girlfriend realizes that the two men are one and the same. Everyone merely thinks Hyde is a temperamental researcher working for Jekyll—never mind the fact that he looks like a rejected extra from Quest for Fire. It isn’t until Hyde throws a hysterical hissy fit when the cops show up at the lab that anyone really questions what this slopping-brow freak with a bad hair cut is doing at a multi-million dollar research facility. Jekyll is finally revealed to be Hyde in a ridiculous scene where the doctor’s employer tells him that Hyde must be fired. Jekyll transforms to Hyde—in a laughably bad special effects sequence—kills his boss, and goes on a violent rampage. With the cops hot on his tail, Hyde injects himself with even more of Jekyll’s super-secret nano-serum, resulting in further mutation that must been witnessed in slack-jawed wonder to fully appreciate.
There is no getting around the fact that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a bad movie. Everything about this film is bad. The writing is terrible. The performances are laughably awful. The direction consists of little more than pointing the camera in the general direction of the action, and making sure the picture is in focus. And the special effects are neither “special” nor “effective.” All of this adds up to a film that is monumentally bad, and that’s not even getting around the overwhelming lack of intelligence in the movie.
The impending stupidity that inhabits every frame of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is painfully obvious from the very beginning. Three minutes into the movie, a trio of college co-eds discuss attending an opera party being hosted at a local coffee shop. (An opera party at a coffee shop?) As they discuss their plans using dialog that is both banal and insipid, one of the girls reveals that she has parked her car at the other end of a dark, scary alley. Cut to: an insert shot of the dark, scary alley, accompanied with menacing music to remind us that we should be feeling scared. After the college dingbat reassures her dingbat friends that she will be fine, we know it is only a matter of time before she is not fine, and that the simple-minded predictability that this trash is going to unfold with will be both infuriating and excruciating.
There are some that will no doubt hold out for the hope that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is so bad it’s good, but those fools will be sadly wasting their time. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is so bad it is simply bad. Even Tony Todd—who has become the go-to guy for schlock horror films—can’t redeem this stinker. Perhaps the best thing about this craptacular mess is that it actually makes the inept blaxploitation “classic” Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde—a truly terrible film if there ever was one—seem not nearly as bad as it is. But the ability to say “This film makes another terrible film seem not as bad” is far from an endorsement.