"Jekyll & Hyde . . . Together Again," is a satirical brainstorm that more or less self-destructs into smithereens before your eyes.
While Jerry Belson (" 'Smile' " and "The End") goes all wrong, presumably scuttling his newly launched (and probably ill-advised) directing career in the process, he goes wrong in distinctive ways that at least put a personal stamp of awfulness and miscalculation on the wreckage.
As comic disasters go, "Jekyll & Hyde . . . Together Again" is in the nature of a kamikaze original, and it goes down in flames, combative and obsessive to the bitter end.
Moreover, there's an idea behind Belson's catastrophic farce that still tickles you--the impulse to reinterpret the Robert Louis Stevenson classic in terms of contemporary Hollywood mores and vices.
In "Jekyll & Hyde . . . Together Again" the schizophrenic protagonist is relocated to Los Angeles and envisioned as a celebrated, dedicated transplant surgeon on the staff of Our Lady of Pain and Suffering Hospital. He undergoes alarming character transformation after becoming addicted to a white powder he sniffs after accidentally discovering it in the lab.
This Dr. Jekyll's Mr. Hyde is a literally wigged-out coke freak in disco hustler drag. His raging libido leads him into strenuous sexual congress with a punk rock singer who performs at a strange establishment called Madame Woo Woo's, a combination sushi restaurant and slam-dancing parlor.
Ultimately, Hyde overtakes Jekyll in public when he turns up at a prestigious award ceremony in London and proceeds to "work the room" like a sleazy, exhibitionistic stand-up comic after accepting Jekyll's prize for research into methods of "harnessing the power of man's animal instincts for survival."
Belson's direction is too haphazard to create a coherent or satisfying comedy by satirizing Hollywood at its kinkiest. It could have evolved into something sensational. I can't imagine the public objecting to Belson working off some resentment at trendy hedonism if he'd been skillful enough to do it intelligibly. Since the movie is obviously out of control, it's difficult for Belson to get away with laughing at others for being uncontrolled.
Mark Blankfield's performance in the leading role is a kind of sacrificial embodiment of the entire movie's self-destructive tendencies. Weirdly fascinating because he gives himself to a doomed venture with such intensity, Blankfield is nevertheless an alienating presence from the outset.
Blankfield seems instantly creepy and crazed. His Dr. Jekyll is such a humorless, unappealing runt that there's never a "normal," ingratiating base from which to launch the "alter-ego represented by Hyde.
Supporting players such as Bess Armstrong, who plays Jekyll's fiance', a self-satisfied society girl, and Tim Thomerson, who plays a plastic surgeon whose vanity obliges him to keep touching up his own handsome mug, are more effective than Blankfield partly because they establish amusing normal identities. For example, Armstrong has a frustrated wanton streak that makes Hyde rather more attractive to her than Jekyll. Thomerson is a logical facetious update of Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray -- a closet homosexual who pops out of the closet.
In fact, there's something so satisfying about the idea of the Stevenson and Wilde stories crisscrossing and getting tangled up in a modern setting that it seems a shame Belson didn't try to make sense of a double travesty. You sense the missed opportunity keenly when Blankfield gravely confesses that he's split between two personalities and Thomerson replies, "Isn't everybody?"