THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO
Color, 1971, 81m.
Directed by Eric Jeffrey Haims
Starring Sebastian Brook, Mady Maguire, Donn Greer, Gray Daniels, Rene Bond, Casey Larrain, John Terry, Ric Lutze, Duane Paulsen, Jane Tsentas
A CLOCKWORK BLUE
Color, 1972, 86m.
Directed by Eric Jeffrey Haims
Starring Joe E. Tata, Tracy Handfuss, Marie Arnold, Suzanne Fields, Shella Bancroft, Mady Maguire, Rene Bond, Shannon West, Jayne Allison, John Kirkland, Ed Kelly, Sebastian Brook, Ray Sebastian
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
One of the most mysterious, elusive exploitation titles from the early '70s was The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio, a curiosity briefly issued on PAL VHS in the early '80s by the infamous Intervision before disappearing completely. Bootleg copies kept the film's reputation alive despite the fact that it received almost no theatrical play, even with an X rating courtesy of plentiful softcore sex scenes and gaudy gore. Now, here it is back from the dead courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome as part of an unlikely double bill paying tribute to its director, Eric Jeffrey Haims, who only has a small handful of obscure early '70s adult films to his credit.
At the Florence Nightingale Institute for Nursing, foul deeds are afoot. All of the new nurses are forced to wear antiquated dresses with a strict ban on underwear, a young girl has just been pitchforked in the middle of the afternoon while riding a swing, and the leader, Dr. Cabala (The Gay Deceivers' Brook), spends a lot of time slicing up frogs in very bloody, protracted detail and showing off their still-beating hearts. Detective Kincaid (Greer) starts snooping around the place, presumably distracted by the fact that everyone seems to be having sex with each other out of class when they aren't busy staging Grand Guignol shows (featuring Rene Bond in drag!). A vicious knifing of another couple in a barn means the body count will just keep climbing, setting the stage for a melodramatic, psychosexual revelation.
You know you're in for something special when the opening five minutes consist of titles slowly unspooling over drawn playing cards depicting infamous murderers through history, accompanied by narration about "the weird and the profane." That narrator also appears in bookending segments, with the final scene offering one of the weirdest flourishes you'll ever see. On top of that you get a hulking, deformed manservant straight out of an Andy Milligan film, a dimwitted handyman played by Ric Lutze, and a domineering lesbian doctor played by A Scream in the Streets' Maguire for good measure. Though many of the players went on to hardcore (most notably Bond and Lutze as well as Paulsen, one of the barn stabees), this film isn't especially steamy apart from one girl-on-girl scene presumably stuck in the middle of the film to pad out the running time. Still, the mixture of bare breasts and copious stage blood make this one of the weirdest entries in the surprisingly long list of early '70s Jekyll and Hyde-inspired drive-in offerings, which also range from The Adult Version of Jekyll & Hide (also with Bond) to the PG-rated but sleazy Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. The actual connection to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic is tenuous at best (and not even touched on until the final 15 minutes), but you'll be too entranced by this scuzzy gem to care.
Next we move to Haims' second film, A Clockwork Blue, which bears no relation to the Stanley Kubrick movie in any shape, form or fashion. What we have instead is a bunch of truly strange sex comedy vignettes barely held together by the narrative device of Homer (Tata), an outrageous Jewish stereotype, and Blackie (uncredited), an even more outrageous black stereotype, which find themselves granted one wish in heaven. Blackie wishes for a million dollars, while Homer gets a magical pocket watch. The story then fragments into pieces as we jump to another Homer many generations down (same actor) at a professor's research area, nagged by a scolding mother, while Blackie watches the whole thing on a monitor made from wired-up watermelon. (Yes, really.) Apparently the professor has mastered time and the universe, and now he can send Homer hurtling around through sexy highlights of human history as long as he plays the role of the period in which he finds himself. That involves the same pocket watch, which first plops Homer in the American Revolution as George Washington embroiled in the sexual shenanigans of Paul Revere (Kirkland) and Betsy Ross (The Toy Box's Arnold). Then it's off to France for some sapphic interaction between Marie Antoinette (porn vet Fields) and Madame Dubarry (Bancroft) with our hero as the Scarlet Pimpernel, followed by a jaunt with some Pilgrims and a randy, corn-munching Indian (Lutze in a ridiculous wig) while Homer gets thrown in the stocks as a fornicator. The court of Henry VIII is highlighted by Rene Bond (of course) as the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, who becomes the subject of a nude painting, and after a quick sadistic viking interlude and a dive through Greece with Helen of Troy, ancient Rome erupts into a full-scale orgy thanks to Cleopatra (West).
As is to be expected from Vinegar Syndrome, both transfers are fresh new HD scans from what are most likely the best elements in existence. Portfolio comes from a 35mm internegative that's about as good as the original source will allow; most of it looks great for what is essentially a grainy, erratically lit cheapie, though the opening credits and a few other scenes are battered by some scuffs and water damage here and there. Given the extreme rarity of the title, though, it's barely even worth mentioning. Taken from the camera negative, Clockwork looks impeccable throughout with very vibrant, borderline psychedelic colors and a sharp, "fresh out of the lab" appearance from start to finish.
In an unusual move, this pairing is actually available in two different editions. A Blu-ray/DVD combo sold directly from the label, limited to 1000 units, is definitely worth getting for trash film fanatics as the Blu-ray features lovely 1080p renderings of both features, with the second film obviously benefiting the most. Even more significant is the fact that this version of Clockwork is a hotter X-rated cut than the general release version, with some vigorous thrusting shots from Paul Revere, a brief bit of unsimulated oral and digit play between Fields and Bancroft, a couple of fleeting oral shots in the Rome segment, and most significantly, some far more graphic shots of the "Native Americans" going to town. It all falls in that weird gray area of the time where full-on coupling shots were still avoided, but just about anything else was fair game. On the other hand, the DVD-only version (which isn't limited) features the strictly softcore version of Clockwork, running only a few seconds shorter and featuring alternate, much milder takes (and some cutaways) instead. Which cut works better will be a matter of personal taste, as the softer one is a more consistently light and silly affair while the limited explicit one offers a truly bizarre example of how bonkers things could get before full-on porn took over the market. Either way, you're in for a very wild ride.
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Reviewed on March 31, 2014.