CANNON MONTH: Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this movie as part of our Not So Classic Monsters week on January 10, 2022. Thanks for checking out another appearance of this early Cannon movie.

Charles B. Griffith — the Quentin Tarantino-named “Father of Redneck Cinema” — is credited with 29 movies but he probably wrote plenty more. From 1955 to 1961, he was Roger Corman’s main screenwriter, starting with two unfilmed Westerns (Three Bright Banners and Hangtown) and moving on to an uncredited rewrite on It Conquered the World and his first credit Gunslinger. He went on to make Not of This EarthThe Flesh and the SpurThe UndeadTeenage DollNaked ParadiseAttack of the Crab Monsters and Rock All Night before making two movies — Ghost of the China Sea and Forbidden Island —  for Columbia (which didn’t go well).

Griffith reunited with Corman after and really went into the prime of his career of making movies, writing stuff like Beast from the Haunted CaveSki Troop AttackThe Little Shop of HorrorsA Bucket of BloodCreature from the Haunted Sea and many, many more.

His films rank among some of my favorites of all time — The Wild AngelsDeath Race 2000, rewrites on Barbarella — and he went on to direct, act and — as all must in the 80s — work for Cannon Films.

Beyond a script Cannon tried for years to get made — Oy Vey, My Son Is Gay — Griffith made this movie, which started as part of a series of joke movie titles that he shared with Francis Ford Coppola at a Christmas party. He showed them to Menahem Golan — half of all things Cannon — and after writing The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington didn’t work out, Griffith made up a story to go with the title, all about a hippie who creates a drug that makes anyone that takes it into an ad exec. Golan bought it, as long as the ugly guy became the good guy.

In typical Cannon fashion, Griffith had three weeks to write and do preproduction, four weeks to shoot and two weeks to edit. Then, as always, the rug was pulled out Cannon style: They wanted Oliver Reed. Great actor. Maybe not a comedic actor.

Griffith told Sense of Cinema, “Heckyl and Hype could have been a very good picture. Oliver was great as Heckyl. Wonderful. He played the part with a kind of New York accent and everything, but when he was Hype, he didn’t know how to do it… Reed played Hype as Oliver Reed, slow and ponderous.”

It’s a good looking movie, but man, it’s a movie that has no idea what it wants to be. Kind of like Cannon at the time, which had just been bought by two Israeli madmen who were about to take the small New York studio and make it into something so much bigger than it was supposed to be.

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