Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"I, Monster" (1971) d/ Stephen Weeks

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Robert Louis Stevenson's 1908 literary take on the duality of man, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has spawned numerous films over the past hundred years, with memorable big screen portrayals of the fictional character(s) from the likes of Fredric March, Spencer Tracy, and Paul Massie coming immediately to mind, and then you've got Hammer's unforgettable gender-bending variant, several television versions, David Friedman's Adult version, a blaxploitation take, a few comedic re-imaginings from Ollie Reed and Mark Blankfield, and also tonight's review, Amicus Studios stepping away from their usual low-budget horror anthologies for their own take on the legendary novel, originally planned for a 3D release, starring two of the biggest genre names of all-time in Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing...

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"Out of Sunny'll have to be this purple stuff then."
Unbeknownst to his intellectual colleagues, Dr. Marlowe (Christopher Lee) has spent an inordinate amount of time of late, tinkering in his laboratory at all hours with behavioral drugs, and he may have stumbled upon a particular serum that brings out the repressed opposite in people; turning obnoxious blowhards into timid mice and bashful prudes into nymphomaniacs eager to display their milky, naked shoulders to him like common pub-dwelling trollops of low breeding. At the gentlemen's club, he campaigns his crazy Freudian ideas to his skeptical chums, before booting a dose of his experimental formula himself, finding the drug releases him from his restrictive sense of ethics, morals, and logic. Instantly, his physical appearance transforms to match his chemically-induced bender of assholery, developing oversized, tobacco-stained teeth as he walks over starving young waifs that he's knocked down in the street, even starting stiletto rucks with alleyway grease just for kicks.

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"Return my autographed David Cassidy publicity still, Marlowe, or I shall be forced to clamber out of this easy chair and slap your fucking sideburns off... ," utters Utterson (Peter Cushing).
Soon, Utterson and company entertain the notion that this evil newcomer, an unsavory associate of Marlowe's named Hyd- uhh, errr... Blake, who's been racking up bastard points all over town, must also be blackmailing the doctor for his wealth, though both men's handwriting styles are curiously similar...As Blake angrily does in a mocking, drunken wench with the head of his walking stick one evening, one can't help but notice that he's starting to look more than a little like Keith Moon, circa Who Are You. With calculated murder on his conscience, Marlowe swears off his serum in promising to terminate all dealings with this nasty Blake chappie, only now he's begun to morph randomly into the dirty fucker...

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"Duuuuuuude, you're uglier'n a baboon's hangbag!"
Despite the title change and new character names, Monster remains more faithful to Stevenson's thriller than one would expect, though when all is said and done, it's little more than a redundant ride down some well-traveled road, with only the performances of Lee and Cushing standing out against a backdrop of generic support, with very few moments of terror to draw upon. Also missing are the dollops of light sex and violence that rival Hammer Studios would have certainly ladled on profusely, leaving this production feeling mostly flat, and more soporific than sinister. In the spirit of the whole thing,  I kind of wish I was more torn on the film's score on the Wopsploitation rating scale, but both halves of me are in full agreement when I say: two Wops.

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"Cor, I been fiendin' for a shot o' this 'ere Liquid Bastard, I 'ave...." 
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