Watching the vintage trailer for tonight's review, another slice of blaxploitative horror from the guy who served up the likes of Blacula to cult audiences three years earlier, might leave you in a mad jones to hunt down the 35th Anniversary release (which should only set you back a couple of bucks at the time I'm writing this), what with all the rappin' narration, afro-coiffed homeboys gettin' chucked through plate glass windows, and promise of further goings on of a freaky, outta sight nature within. Who'd blame you? You've got former 1968 L.A. Ram Pro Bowler and head Gargoyle himself, Bernie Casey, in the lead, ably supported by Rosalind "Omega Man" Cash, Marie O'Henry, and prolific tv actor Ji-Tu Cumbuka as a police lieutenant whose dryly intelligent quips predate Jules Winnfield by two decades, but recall Samuel L. Jackson's famous performance just the same. Casey's inner homicidal honkey-by-night was created by none other than Stan Winston, who teamed up with Ellis Burman on Casey's reptilian look on the aforementioned made-for-tv cult classic, Gargoyles.
"I'm hep to your atitis, Linda.", says Dr. Pride (Casey).
Dr. Pride (Casey) works slavishly towards a cure for the liver disease that took his mother, heating beakers full of Kool Aid and turning brown rats into homicidal white ones in his laboratory, when he isn't volunteering his services at the Watts Free Clinic/Thrift Store(!), throwing ten spots at poor old ladies and administering butt-injections to hep-riddled hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, like Linda (O' Henry). When his experimental serum turns an old black woman dying from liver problems into an aggro albino with a propensity to choke a nurse in a heartbeat, before she turns her toes up, an impatient Pride injects himself with the solution, transforming into Mr. Hyde, or a powdery Bernie Casey with whited-out contacts, latex applications across his brow line, and some white streaks in his afro, if you want to get technical about it. As Hyde, he joyrides through Watts in his Rolls Royce, and lays the smackdown upon some street corner brothers who give him jibes instead of directions. He shows up at Linda's favorite watering hole and proceeds to trash the joint. When Linda's old pimp, Silky, and his homeboys chase Hyde out the front door, they're surprised to find a groggy Dr. Pride, nursing a slash wound and dressed identically to the cat that was just kicking all their asses moments earlier. Hmmm, he musta split...
"White in Watts??!! Honey, ain't nobody got time fo' dat!"
When the good doctor takes his trick-turning patient out for dinner on the promise of no "business" talk, he later takes her back to his pad and demands that she let him jab her with a syringe full of untested chemicals on the promise that it will cure her hepatitis (and apparently entirely unconcerned by the notion that she's out infecting johns all over California with hepatitis), before giving himself a good faith jab and changing into Hyde, sending her screaming into the night. At this point, Hyde takes it upon himself to strangle all of Linda's prostitute pals to death one by one, even squashing poor Silky against a cement wall with his Rolls. Several murders later, a heartbroken Linda approaches Pride in hopes that he will turn himself in to the authorities and get the help he needs, reporting him to the cops when he ignores her pleas, instead, and shoots himself up with enough serum to provide for an action-packed King Kong-y finale atop the Watts Towers. Roll credits.
Death lies upon Silky the Pimp, like an untimely frost upon the mackin'-est flower of all the damn field, y'all.
Stan Winston would continue to keep it "street", providing the special makeups for 1978's ethnocentric answer to the Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, before famously helping to usher in the glorious eighties with credits in fare such as The Exterminator (1980), Dead and Buried (1981), Friday the 13th Pt. 3 (1982) ( uncredited ), and of course, The Thing (1982). O'Henry, who selflessly provides the film's breasseses, worked previously in 1974's Three the Hard Way, and would also appear in Deliver Us From Evil (1977) and Human Experiments (1979). As far as blaxploitation horror goes, this one's not nearly as rotten as Blackenstein (1974), nor is it as memorable as Sugar Hill (1974), and on the rating scale, I've given it a respectable deuce for it's troubles. Definitely worth a look, if this sort of thing is your bag, man.
Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. 'Twas booty that killed this particular beast.