DOCTOR JEKYLL’S DUNGEON OF DEATH (1979)- Category: Bad enough and with a classically weird premise but not fun-bad enough for my highest rating.
It’s a heart-warming little movie about a mad scientist (are there any other kind?) who is a descendant of the original Dr Jekyll. He’s using a new version of the family formula on human guinea pigs who then engage in fierce martial-arts battles in his dungeon laboratory. Some of those unfortunate human subjects are provided to him via a covert arrangement with the local prison while others are snatched off the street for him by his regulation hulking, simple-minded lab assistant.
The best part is that he plans to use these kung-fu versions of Mr Hyde as super-soldiers to help win the Vietnam War! Well, it’s better than anything either Johnson or Nixon came up with! Actually, the movie goes to great pains to tell us it’s set in the 1950’s, so if the Kung Fu Hydes are going to Vietnam I guess they’re being sent to help the French, maybe even at Dienbienphu. The thought of the beleaguered French forces being “helped” by dozens of uncontrollably violent martial arts Mr Hydes parachuting into their midst had me laughing harder than a Frenchman at a Jerry Lewis film festival!
And by the way, the references to the 1950’s are utterly pointless because the film features virtually NO exterior scenes. The overwhelming majority of the film takes place in the claustrophobic confines of Jekyll’s dungeon. When we do get a glimpse of the outside world there aren’t even any period automobiles in sight, so the filmmakers might as well have just set the film in the late 60’s or early 70’s when American involvement in Vietnam was at its height.
The guy playing Dr Jekyll acts so deranged he makes horror icon Joe Spinell seem positively STABLE by comparison! The scene where the creep gives sloppy wet kisses to his own sister then beats her savagely will have you wistfully longing for the tender love scenes from Nekromantik! The good doctor also has his fiancee chained up and periodically fondles her and leers at her.
This movie had the potential to be a Bad Movie Classic, but the lackluster presentation makes it more boring-bad than fun-bad. I was hoping to see this film’s Dr Jekyll make with a megalomaniacal rant like “Today, Vietnam, tomorrow the WORLD! HAHAHAHAHAAAA!” Even the kung fu fights are disappointingly low-key rather than the over-the- top kind we’re used to seeing in martial arts movies from overseas. This flick would appeal mostly to Dr Jekyll film completists.
Personally I’d like to see the Kung Fu Mr Hydes square off in a pay-per-view bout against the Bruce Lee clones from the schlock classic The Clones of Bruce Lee.