DECEMBER 16 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : DR JEKYLLS DUNGEON OF DEATH
Henry Jekyll (co-writer James Mathers) is following in his Great Grandfather's footsteps and is working on a serum to bring out the violent side in Man and control it for his own megalomaniac ends.
But instead of trying it on himself Henry is trying the serum out on other people that he has had kidnapped.
They are injected with the serum then put in a room with peeling brown walls and a gaudy red carpet and are 'unleashed' on each other to slug it out in a series of violent one-on-one Martial Arts bouts!
He is helped in this craziness by his lobotomised ("Hopelessly insane from birth") Sister Hilda (Nadine Kalmes) who likes to stand in the shadows and roll her wide, wild eyes, a Black, crippled mute called Boris (Jake Pearson), who has a wonderfully funny back story, and an afro/porn moustache dude named Malo (Tom Nicholson) who watches over the fighters with his trusty rifle. "You're a fine example of a psychotic killer. Ha ha ha ha haaaaa" announces Jekyll!
To this madness is added Henry's fiancé Julia (Dawn Carver Kelly) who is tied to a wardrobe and kept in a drugged state by Jekyll until she submits to him (though he likes to have a grope now and again when he has the chance).
Julia's Father, Professor Atkinson, (an hysterically stodgy performance by John F. Kearney) appears at Jekyll's house to supposedly attend the funeral of Julia because Henry has told him she has died!
In reality he has been lured there to help Jekyll in his diabolical experiments……
This obscure, low budget slice of deranged cheese is at least pretty unique in it's mixing of Kung Fu and mad scientists content and is pretty much the one man work of editor, cinematographer, writer and director James Wood. So we know whom to blame!
As with many Trash creations it's the characters and their warped relationships, just as much as the more exploitative content, that provide the entertainment and "The Dungeon" certainly delivers on this front.
Jekyll (a wonderfully manic teeth-gnashing performance by Mathers that really goes into overdrive at the end) is a fantastically overwrought character with a truly crazy history.
Henry has been around…"when I worked on psychological warfare for the Military"…but is obviously as mad as bag of weasels. Something best shown by the revelation that h e had a 'spot of trouble' in Oxford when he was expelled for dissecting a live tramp!
He barely delivers a sentence in the film that is not accompanied by much eye rolling, beard twitching, hand whinging mania.
His nasty attitude to his Sister and assistants is also a source of fun.
Hilda is routinely beaten (one extended thrashing in the kitchen is particularly nasty) shouted at and insulted, "You know you're just like Mother, that's why I hate you…You even make me want you like her", even at one point being stabbed in the arm with an ice pick! "Ice! Ice! Ice!".
Hulking 'Igor' stand-in Boris receives constant abuse as well. When Henry catches the love sick mute weeping over the tied down Julia he gets a savage thrashing from Jekyll, who screeches "Yes my friend I know exactly how you feel…Love is the most painful emotion of all" while whipping the man into shrieking heap.
One enjoyable slice of Jekyll madness involves Henry showing a shocked Atkinson filmed footage of one of his Kung Fu experiments while excitedly waffling on about the deep social/psychological meanings of his work ("Imagine if you will an army of enraged killers, righteous killers! Who'd need no moral justification for their deeds, ever…Heh heh heh heh heh! No moral questions in battle!") while taking no notice of the distraught Prof who tries vainly to interrupt Henry with a variety of "Oh my God, this is terrible, what are you doing Jekyll you've turned them into animals" exclamations.
Which brings us to the Martial Arts sequences (obviously edited into shots of the actors supposedly watching and reacting).
The fights, by 'Black belt Karate holders trained in San Francisco' to quote the end credits, are genuinely violent, shrieking, sweaty, savage and rough (but actually very well choreographed by Rick Alemany) especially a truly deranged fight between a Black guy and an Asian woman. And they look like the kind of fights you could imagine taking place in an illegal Martial Arts contest where no quarter is given.
The bouts are made up of a mixture of White, Black, Asian men and women ("The Black subjects have less hostility in comparison with the White's. You would think they'd have more repressed regressions…perhaps I should increase the dosage") and all the fighters give 110%.
A spot of snarling Woman on Woman action is a highlight and believe me when I say these ladies punch, kick, bite and pound with great gusto.
All of this happens much to the pleasure of Henry and even more so for crazy Hilda, whose eyes look like they are about to pop out of her deranged head as she watches the fighting with obvious sexual arousal!
There is basically no gore here (though the end gets quite bloody) , but a lot of very rough violence, both during the 'Experiment Fu' and the almost constant scenes of people being beaten, chained/tied up and generally abused.
So, with all this utter craziness going on, by the time the Prof utters the immortal line "my God! There is madness in this house" you can't help but think the old fella has been awfully slow off the mark.
The film does start to repeat itself by the 60 minute mark though, with scenes of Jekyll ranting, Kung Fu roughhousing, Hilda's bulging eyes and the Prof's disgusted exhortations all becoming slightly tiresome due to their repetition.
But there is still much camp filled weirdness here to enjoy and fans of demented Trash cinema should get a kick (ha ha) from the almost non-stop crazy antics on display, the way out dialogue and the warped relationships.