Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971)

Written by: Donn Greer and Bonnie Jean
Directed by: Eric Jeffrey Haims
Sebastian Brooks as Dr. Dorian Cabala
Rene Bond as June Gemini
Donn Greer as Detective John Kinkaid

Planting season is done for another year, and I was recently informed by the Random Deinonychus over at Terrible Claw Reviews that the web filter software used by his place of employment (really, I'm not sure why Jurassic Park is so concerned with what their dinosaurs are looking at online, but whatever) blocks this very blog as pornography. Granted I review some questionable material and the language gets a little saucy from time to time, but I'm pretty sure none of the poster images I use has any nudity and I don't do screencaps because it's a pain in the ass, so I'm not really sure why I got singled out. I guess if a robot considers what I do smut, I'll take it as a compliment, and what better way to celebrate these dual achievements by talking about some smut?

Man, remember the days when smut used to try to be engaging on a level other than something to whack off to? Granted, when people who are really only good at having sex on film (and not all of them are even very good at that beyond a willingness to get nekkid and do the squishy dance in front of a camera) try to make a movie, the result is often no good for the purpose of masturbation (I love Flesh Gordon because it's funny as hell but I never considered whacking off to it), and frequently not up to much as entertainment either.

Take tonight's movie, for example. Even the sex that isn't rough and unpleasant comes nowhere near being sexy, and none of the horror or dramatic elements work because the writing and acting are so godawful clunky and wooden that even with a healthy dose of whiskey and a few beers, I could barely keep my attention focused on the screen.

Dr. Cabala runs the Florence Nightingale nursing school. Despite some weird practices like refusing to let the students wear underwear under their nurse uniforms, the school has a reputation for being the best. I'm not sure how that could be since the only class we ever see anyone in is a junior high-level anatomy class where the professor hacks up live frogs in a most unscientific manner and plays with their blood and organs in an effort to cure the girls of squeamishness. I've known a few people who've been to nursing school, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't part of the curriculum. Of course, some odd courses, an abusive lesbian matron, a drooling, voyeuristic hunchbacked groundskeeper, and an eye-bulging loony headmaster who looks like he's understudying to be Howard Vernon are the least of anyone's worries when a killer starts stabbing students to death and marking them with a strange astrological symbol.

Will the police be able to stop the killer in time to save the school? Is Dr. Cabala doing chemistry experiments that turn him into a brutal murderer? Will the weird matron ever stop squeezing that girl's vagina? Why does this movie hate frogs? The answers to these questions and more in the not-at-all-exciting conclusion to The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio.

It's possible that this movie is a lot more fun with other people who are also drunk. It just made me sleepy watching it alone, but I'm willing to give it another shot for a few reasons. One is the flashback scene explaining the killer's origin and reason for carving the astrological symbol into the victims. The killer's motivation is mental scarring by your standard abusive religious parent, but dear old dad is played with great sweaty over-acting verve by a guy who looks a great deal like 1980's Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, and that made this already fun scene even more enjoyable and woke me up at a point when I was about ready to fall asleep in my ancient La-Z-Boy.

The killing of the student and her boyfriend in the barn (why a nursing school that doesn't seem to have any livestock has a barn full of hay, your guess is as good as mine) is pretty effective. It displays some decent editing and packs about as much punch as anything from your average slasher flick. It's not a great kill scene, but it's a good kill scene, and a genuinely good scene at all in this movie is a relief. It also ends on a high note as they get skewered mid-coitus, the male character dies with his head on the girl's chest, and the actor very visibly shifts his head an eyes – after he's supposed to be dead, mind you – so that he can stare at her breast while he's waiting for the director to call cut.

Thn there's the very last shot of the movie. The flick is book-ended by one of the detectives giving a long, rambling speech about the nature of Jekyll and Hyde and human dualism and some half-baked philosophical padding bullshit, but then at the very end he looks straight into the camera and makes this goofy face and I almost shot beer out my nose because it was so unexpected after all that drudgery.

The movie does have a faint flavor of Andy Milligan about it, albeit with a bigger budget and considerably less seething hatred dripping from every frame (except the guy hacking up frogs, that's pretty icky and animal lovers may want to give this one a pass), and another viewing with some company to liven it up and give some extra perspective may raise The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio above the level of a one-and-done smut curiosity, but I kinda doubt it. I know that whatever poor bastard who paid fifteen hundred bucks on eBay for the old Intervision VHS of this thing before Vinegar Syndrome put it out on Blu Ray and DVD probably experienced some major buyer's remorse once the credits rolled, unless he was a serious Rene Bond completist. Apparently some rights and censorship issues kept this one from getting much in the way of a theatrical or home video release, and the few VHS tapes that were produced became big collector's items.

Now the same seems to be true of VinSyn's limited edition Blu Ray, which is already going for upwards of $150. Unless you're an obsessive collector, you'll do just fine dropping fifteen bucks on the double feature DVD like I did. I can't imagine the print looks that much better, unless you just can't live without seeing Rene Bond wearing a cape and mustache in 1080p. Here's hoping the second feature, A Clockwork Blue, is a masterpiece.

I'll leave you with a bit of trivia. The proper Scottish pronunciation is JEE-kull, not the commonly used JEH-kull. Weird skin flicks and pedantry. Amaze your friends at parties!

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