Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Dottor Jekyll e gentile signora / Doctor Jekyll Likes them Hot

Like the other couple of Steno films I've seen, the not dissimilar horror themed comedy Uncle was a Vampire and the anti-Magnum Force styled poliziotto La Polizia ringrazia, Dr Jekyll Likes them Hot incorporates a higher quotient of direct social commentary than is usual for filone cinema.

Indeed, incorporates is precisely the word here, with our Dr Jekyll (Paolo Villaggio) being the top troubleshooter for multinational oil and chemical corporation Pantac, with his and its every action - legal, illegal or borderline - motivated by the search for profit.

Though there is a lot of low humour here, as with the various nameplates listing the chairmen's qualifications including the extent to which they are figli di puttana in a sight gag borrowed from Villaggio's Fantozzi series, the board's subsequent discussions of of instigating regime changes in (fictitious) African countries and what to do with some otherwise unusable chemicals already known to have harmful side effects, have a more serious edge to them.

Some of the signs

One of the side effects of the chemical

Jekyll's ambitious new secretary Barbara Wimply (Edwige Fenech), who hangs on his every word, provides the answer to the latter: why not make the chemicals into chewing gum?

If the gum immediately corrodes the consumer's teeth, so much the better since Pantac can then sell them dentures.

The conspirators hit upon the idea of compelling no less than the queen to endorse the gum and accordingly summon and dispatch corporate mercenary Pretorius (Gordon Mitchell) and his team of hand-picked cut-throats to carry out the mission.

It is at this point that Dr Jekyll's grandfather throws a spanner in the works, by encouraging his evil nephew to take some of the old family recipe, the effect of which is to bring out the hitherto repressed nice side of his personality.

It's that man again...

This inverted Mr Hyde, complete with angelic countenance, then proceeds to scupper his alter-ego's plan, leading the other members of the board to want him dead. He also attracts the amorous attentions of Barbara...

Fenech doesn't really have a great deal to do in the first half of the film, which is very much dominated by the antics of Jekyll and Hyde, other than showcase her beauty in a number of outfits, some somewhat dated - her late 70s secretary with big glasses - and others more appealing - the maid outfit with which she infiltrates Buckingham Palace.

Though she is more prominent in the second half, she still keeps her clothes on most of the time, only briefly exposing her breasts before being saddled with a unflattering curly blonde wig and ditzy dubbing voice after her own inevitable transformation...

Really, however, it is clearly Villaggio's show. Not being familiar with his work and persona, I must reserve judgement on how well or badly Dr Jekyll Likes them Hot represents him compared to others, but certainly found his antics to pass the basic comedy test of being funny.

The film is relatively functionally shot, though this is perhaps better attributed to the general tendency of the comedy film, where the director is often better keeping things simple in order to showcase the performers, than any lack of imagination or ability on Steno's part. We may also note the relatively extensive use of location shooting rather than just stock footage combined with Cinecitta or Incir de Paolis studio sets, indicative that the veteran director was working with a decent rather than poverty-row budget.

Armando Trovajoli provides yet another quirky and endearing score.

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