• Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 22nd, 2020.
    Director: James Wood
    Cast: James Mathers, John F. Kearney, Dawn Carver Kelly, Nadine Kalmes, Jake Pearson
    Year: 1979
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death – Movie Review:

    Directed by James Wood and released in 1979, Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death might sound like the sort of campy nonsense that Al Adamson might have handled, but nope! This is a surprisingly grim and mean spirited picture about Dr. Henry Jekyll (James Mathers), a descendent of Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous creation. We learn this through his opening narration where he explains that the elder Jekyll’s serum didn’t work the way it should have, and that he’s now working on perfecting it by experimenting on people he has abducted and, once they’ve been injected, he subjects them to what are basically wrestling or MMA matches in a dungeon of sorts.

    He does this for research purposes, we’re told. He never experiments on himself and, as such, there is no ‘Hyde’ in this story, but as Henry Jekyll is evil enough as it is, it never seems all that necessary for there to be a Hyde in the first place When Jekyll isn’t watching people wrestle in his basement, he’s got his fiancé, Julia Atkinson (Dawn Carver Kelly), trapped in his home for his amusement and when he’s not amusing himself with her, he’s berating and torturing his sister Hilda Jekyll (Nadine Kalmes), who we’re told has been insane since birth.

    The point of all of this gets muddy in spots, but Henry has got a hulking man-servant named Boris (Jake Pearson) to help him out with all of this but eventually Julie’s father, Professor Atkinson (John F. Kearney), shows up and things get complicated when Atkinson finds out what’s been going on all of this time.

    This is a grubby, nihilistic little low budget picture that is a seriously weird mix of martial arts, wresting and horror – it definitely gets points for being unique! Director James Wood also appears to have served as producer, editor and story writer on this one, so he’s a bit of a one-man wrecking crew it would seem, and it’s clear that he had a vision of some sort for this picture. Whether he truly captured that or not is impossible to say, as the movie is convoluted with much of its running time made up of the death matches being held in the dungeon (sometimes under weird colored lighting!). Leading man Mathers contributed to the script alongside Wood, which is interesting. Still, there’s something kind of fascinating about this movie and the fact that it exists at all is reason for those with a taste for genuine cinematic oddities to consider this release a cult trash cause celebre!

    Mathers makes for a seriously odd leading man, strutting about the screen with all the arrogance in the world and sleazing it up to pretty intense levels when the film calls for it. He seems to have really thrown himself into the role. The supporting players are decent enough here too, Jake Pearson steals a few scenes as the weird ‘Igor’ of the film and Kearney has a certain nobility about him that makes his character work better than he should.

    Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death to Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative with the feature taking up just under 24GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The transfer shows some very mild print damage here and there, mostly just small white specks and nothing more serious than that (more noticeable during the fight scenes than the rest of the movie), and overall it is pretty clean. Most of this film takes place in dark, dimly lit interiors so don’t expect it to pop the way you might want it to but it definitely does feature nice, accurate color reproduction (the good Dr.’s smoking jacket is a good example – the reds look great there). Detail is nice throughout and there’s good depth and texture to the image throughout. No problems with any compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement.

    The main audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track that does justice to the weird organ music used in the opening credits and throughout the rest of the picture. Dialogue can sound a bit flat but that’s not shocking given that this is an older, low budget picture, however it is quite clean and easy to follow. Jekyll’s narration sounds pretty decent and again, that bizarre score sounds really nice here, particularly once it gets deep and low in the mix. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. An English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is also provided.

    Extras on the disc are limited to a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    NOTE: This release is part of the new Vinegar Syndrome Archive line, and it comes packaged a double-sided poster included inside the keepcase alongside the disc. We also get some cool reversible cover sleeve art as well. Like all VSA releases, this one is ONLY be available on the Vinegar Syndrome website and at participating brick and mortar retailers. This release is limited to 3,000 copies.

    Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death - The Final Word:

    Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death is a seriously weird, sleazy little picture – nastier than you might expect it to be but definitely an interesting little cult gem. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release is, sadly, light on extras but it looks and sounds quite good, far better than anyone will probably expect it to.

    Click on the images below for full sized Dr. Jekyll’s Dungeon Of Death Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      I think I had this on VHS. He's doing an Orson Welles impression, right?
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I tried watching this on vhs and bailed out after 30 minutes.
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gary Banks View Post
      I tried watching this on vhs and bailed out after 30 minutes.
      According to the Mondo Digital review: "This one has suffered a lot of nay-saying over the years, though a good chunk of that can be attributed to those horrific video transfers that made everything so murky you couldn't tell what the heck was happening most of the time".