For over a year now, Vinegar Syndrome have been releasing DVD double-features under the Drive-In Collection banner but this time they’re trying something new. The DVD is still going to be available through retail as before but they have also made a very limited batch of blu-rays that are only available directly from the label via their site and/or in person convention sales (as of this writing, VS are sold out but you can still get it from the folks at Diabolik). It’s an interesting move and a welcome one considering the noticeable bump in quality, that of which these titles would likely not see otherwise.
So, the films in question: The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio and A Clockwork Blue. I had not seen either of these prior to this release though I had heard of the former due to it being notoriously hard to come across on VHS and for its various exploitations and eccentricities. I assumed by title alone that the latter would be some sort of dirty cash in on A Clockwork Orange, but I’m incredibly happy to report that I’m wrong in that regard and that it is so much more than that.
The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio gets top billing here, which makes sense considering how seemingly coveted it happened to be in certain circles. Eric Jeffrey Haims’ – who is the constant element in this double bill – 1971 Jekyll & Hyde flick isn’t what you’re likely to expect it is. I was anticipating something along that vastly more sexually explicit lines of The Adult Version of Jekyll and Hyde but instead found myself watching a more toned down, but certainly grimey, sleaze slasher that looks to come from the James Bryan school of cheap shock and cheaper everything else.
What is perhaps most jarring about The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio initially is how loosely it ties the source material – if you can even claim that – into its narrative. It is all seemingly inconsequential, especially when people are being stabbed and pitchforked rampantly. This all goes down at a nursing school in which the young nurses are not permitted to wear underwear and the guy in charge has a penchant for dissecting frogs more often than he should (if you really don’t want to see a beating frog’s heart, steer clear). People start dying/disappearing and a detective shows up to find out what’s going on, the answer to which you’ll just have to spend eighty minutes to find out. It’s worth it.
If The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio caught me a little off guard, A Clockwork Blue just knocked me the fuck out. This is just flat out gonzo stuff. Just imagine, if you will, what may have resulted if Bob Guccione financed Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part 1 or, rather, if Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life was co-directed by Andy Milligan and George Kuchar. Do I have your attention yet?
With a dime-store arts & crafts set design that seems to all but predict the aesthetic of Forbidden Zone and a cast of characters that includes George Washington, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross and any other historical figure prone to defamation. The whole thing is really a bunch of sordid vignettes tied together by a thread so preposterous that it makes Night Train to Terror seem logicially sound.
That thread: a Jewish (don’t worry, it’s stereotyped) boy named Homer and a black boy named – what else? – Blackie find themselves in Heaven and are granted a wish each. Homer wants a magical pocket watch and Blackie wants a whole lot of money. Homer somehow starts time traveling while Blackie just hangs out and watches all of his exploits on his TV that is made out of a watermelon. Makes sense, right?
I don’t want to ruin much with this one because I want everyone’s jaw to drop as much as mine did throughout its runtime. Just be on the lookout for corn cobs, vikings, fake grass and a really horny Cleopatra. Things get pretty raunchy here, much more so than the former film, and some of the porn vets in the cast get to show off their skills. I wouldn’t call it a full blown adult feature but it definitely earns its X rating.
Both of these titles look fantastic, as expected. Both sources are 35mm negatives, with The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio‘s being from a blow-up as it was shot in 16mm. That title shows the most wear as well, with a very good 2K scan, but some damage is noticable primarily in the opening. A Clockwork Blue was scanned at 4K and from its original camera negative and it shows. This thing is pristine and makes the blu-ray the obvious choice for anyone on the fence about which version to get.
Another reason the blu-ray is the version to get is that the afforementioned X-rating for A Clockwork Blue is only on this one. The DVD version gets a softer, but just about the same runtime, cut with tamer takes on the more hardcore scenes. I personally prefer how crazy the title gets so the choice is obvious for me, but if you’re the kind of viewer that would rather not see what’s going on ‘down there’ while Cleopatra partakes in an orgy, by all means go for the DVD.