Movies From the Black Lagoon: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde - 1976, Rated R
By Tom Doty

An enterprising young doctor, in sunny southern California, accidentally releases his dark side in this hip chiller from the African-American horror boom of the mid 70s.
The story centers on Dr. Henry Pride. He's a true renaissance man with many irons in the fire. He is on staff at a major hospital, volunteers at a clinic in Watts, and uses his spare time to work on developing a cure to liver disease. In the first half hour of the film he loses a patient after giving her his new serum, is insulted by a hooker he is treating for hepatitis at the clinic, and his serum turns him into a hulking maniac who can't resist the seedy allure of the nightclub scene (I never said he was a successful renaissance man).
The first time he injects his serum into a living creature should have clued him in. He shoots up a rat and it promptly slays every other rodent in the tank. This development only leads Pride to give the treatment to a woman dying of liver disease- at least he hastens what would probably have been a slow painful death.
Personality wise he's a bit of a drip. He ignores his Doctor girlfriend, Billie Worth, to concentrate on his research. He does take the angry hooker, Linda, out on a date but that is only a ruse to talk her into trying his serum, She dares him to take it first and witness his transformation into the titular creature. This Hyde is quite close to the original character and immediately heads for the worst part of town. He engages in bar room brawls, takes on Kung-Fu pimps, and even drives over a prostitute with his Rolls Royce before calling it a night.
Meanwhile a streetwise detective begins hunting him down and very quickly learns that Hyde and Pride are the same dude. He actually gets lucky making this connection as Linda turns out to be that rare creature in a horror film-a woman who actually goes straight to the cops when she figures out that her admirer may be a monster.
It all leads to a freaky finale on the Watts Tower with helicopters swarming around the site s Hyde climbs to the top before realizing that the police know his only weakness0sharpshooters. It's a bit overwhelming actually as about thirty cops desecrate the site of one of our nation's strongest centers of unrest by unloading on this pathetic creature with a ton of lead. A sad comment on how little we have learned since the rioting and this was more than ten years before a riot would rock Los Angeles again.
This one has a shaky script but it succeeds thanks to an enormous amount of talent working as if they beloved in it 100 percent. Director William Crain gets most of the credit. He'd already directed "Blacula" and would go on to helm a ton of action shows on TV like "S.W.A.T.," "The Rookies," and "The Mod Squad." Bernie Casey (Sharkey's Machine) is well cast in the title role. He is believable as the driven doctor and even more so as the fish out of water monster. The script does merit props for making a statement with the monster by having Pride turn white when he changes. It's a clever twist and about as smart as the screenplay ever gets except for a Detective character whose vocabulary would humble Alex Trebeck. They garner good support from the other players. Rosalind Cash does a fine job with only a few scenes as the Doctor girlfriend. Marie O'Henry is even better as the hooker that Pride becomes obsessed with. She only made five films in a four-year period before totally disappearing form screens. Nobody knows what happened to her so please write if you've heard anything about this talented actress. Ji-Tu Kimbuka gets the best lines as the cop out to stop the crazed Doc and his alter ego. Give credit to Tak Fujimoto for shooting the while affair like it was Oscar material. He would go on to become a prized photographer on films like "Silence of the Lambs " and " The Sixth Sense." Credit also goes to VCI Entertainment for restoring the film for its DVD debut.
Best Lines: Take your pick of the following;
"This isn't your usual type of ghetto murder."
"I think we got ourselves a haint. That's a cross between the abominable snowman and Willie the werewolf."
"Prostitution isn't the healthiest job you can have."
"This situation is rapidly becoming insalubrious."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.