Color, 1980, 87 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Charles B. Griffith
Starring Oliver Reed, Sunny Johnson, Maia Danziger, Virgil Frye, Mel Welles, Jackie Coogan, Corinne Calvet
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
It's hard to say exactly who was the target audience for this bizarro monster comedy, which got plenty of coverage in Famous Monsters magazine at the start of the '80s but never seemed to materialize much of anywhere until it hit TV and eventually VHS from Paragon Video. The film was an early notable misfire from the Golan and Globus incarnation of The Cannon Group (coming hot on the heels of The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood), with most of its commercial potential banking on the presence of Oliver Reed just after Burnt Offerings.
Here Reed is cast as mild-mannered nice guy podiatrist Dr. Henry Heckyl, who's hideously lovesick and, well, just hideous to look at. In particular he has a crush on one of the patients, Carol (Johnson, who died tragically after her most famous role in Flashdance), which drives him to the brink of suicide. However, he's stopped by the intervention of a weight loss potion cooked up by his colleague, Dr. Hinkle (Lady Frankestein director Welles), which also turns the subject into that which they desire most. In this case Heckyl turns into, well, a normal-looking Oliver Reed, who's a hit with the ladies but tends to kill them when he's finished with them. That homicidal practice is completely lost on Heckyl when he returns to his normal unsightly form, but it isn't long before the law starts closing in.
For what it's worth, Reed gives his all to his performance in a comic role that just preceded his peculiar appearances in films like Condorman and Venom. The film was the brainchild of Charles B. Griffith, a regular collaborator with Roger Corman who's best known for writing films like Little Shop of Horrors, The Wild Angels, Attack of the Crab Monsters, and A Bucket of Blood, as well as streamlining Robert Thom's outrageous original screenplay for Death Race 2000. His directorial career is a lot less illustrious, highlighted elsewhere by Up from the Depths and his best film, Eat My Dust. His best call here was probably hiring young composer Richard Band for only his third score; the future musical voice of the Re-Animator and Puppet Master series comes up with some interesting ideas here swirling together a small orchestra and synthesizers. The end result is certainly curious with more feet jokes than you'd ever imagined possible (not to mention some really odd prosthetic piggies for good measure), while the cast is peppered with unexpected faces ranging from Jackie Coogan to Italian sleaze vet Lucretia Love and even the debut appearance of Tony Cox before Spaceballs and Bad Santa.
Still a curio more often mentioned than seen, this film got an unlikely Blu-ray release in 2019 from Scorpion Releasing through a licensing deal with its current owner, MGM (who also discreetly had it doing the rounds on cable a few times). The new transfer is up to the usual Cannon catalog standards of the studio, looking far fresher than it ever has before with a satisfying bright color palette that really bursts to life in a couple of psychedelic sequences (one featuring an extended cameo by Dick Miller). The DTS-HD MA English mono audio sounds perfectly fine and comes with optional English SDH subtitles. The sole extra is a batch of bonus trailers for 3:15, Night Visitor, The Cycle Savages, P.O.W. The Escape, and Act of Vengeance.
Reviewed on August 27, 2019.