THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"JEKYLL AND HYDE...TOGETHER AGAIN"
There was a time in the early '80s when Mark Blankfield was supposed to be a major comedy star. He gained notoriety as a cast member on ABC's Saturday Night Live ripoff Fridays, where he was known for his manic physical comedy. The movies came calling, and Blankfield got his shot at silver screen glory with Paramount Pictures' 1982 release Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again. But reviews were terrible – Roger Ebert gave it one star, dubbing it “a disaster” – and box office grosses were flat. (Total gross = $3.7 million.) Blankfield continued to work, mostly in TV, never breaking out the way many thought he deserved to.
Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again, meanwhile, was a staple on cable for a few years after its release, before generally fading into obscurity. It reemerges on a new Blu-ray from Olive Films, to be released on September 13.
Blankfield plays Dr. Daniel Jekyll, a brilliant surgeon who develops a white cocaine-like powder that unleashes the most primitive instincts of anyone who ingests it. He accidentally snorts some of the stuff one night, subsequently turning into Mr. Hyde, a libidinous, wild-haired lunatic. There really isn't a whole lot of plot, other than that Mr. Hyde starts a sexual dalliance with a singer named Ivy (Krista Errikson), which puts Dr. Jekyll's romance with status-conscious Mary (Bess Armstong) at risk. It also threatens to impede an upcoming surgery he is committed to performing.
Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again was never all that funny. A few gags land – such as a bit involving a nurse who wears lipstick on the outside of her surgical mask – but many of them are obvious or insensitive. (The ethnic and gay stereotypes are especially egregious today.) Blankfield, meanwhile, seems far more comfortable playing Hyde than Jekyll. It's no wonder, since the latter requires him to be restrained, while the former lets him flail about to his heart's delight. He definitely had the sort of frantic energy that previously popularized Robin Williams and later put Jim Carrey on the map. His efforts are valiant, undone only by the lazy screenplay.
What's notable here is that, even though it's no great shakes, the movie is absolutely fascinating as a snapshot of the early 1980s. Back then, you could make a comedy like this, which essentially argues that cocaine use is awesome. The mousy, insecure Jekyll snorts some of his powder and suddenly becomes confident. He develops a sex drive. He starts having fun. Coke had been around, obviously, but it really became popular in the '80s. Everything about Jekyll and Hyde is geared toward celebrating the drug as a key to unlocking one's fullest potential. The movie's ending doesn't even see the doctor swearing off his powder. There's a clear suggestion that, by continuing to use it, he can “share” Ivy and Mary!
Of course, we know how destructive cocaine can be, but that doesn't lessen the hypnotic quality of the movie's obsession with it. Even the title Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again is spelled out onscreen in white powder, which an animated nose snorts up. You just don't see stuff like this anymore (well, with the exception of Seth Rogen's weed-centric comedies), so it makes for a rather nifty cinematic time-capsule of how a different era viewed drugs. The film ends with Robert Louis Stevenson literally rolling in his grave, which feels wholly appropriate.
The Olive Films Blu-ray looks terrific, a real accomplishment given that the movie itself was low-budget and not exactly glorious on a visual level. Sound quality is also good. This is a nice release of a seriously unusual film.
For more information on this title and other great releases, please visit the Olive Films website.
Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again is rated R for language, sexuality, and drug content. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.
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