Seattle Courant

Coca Express

By Jason McBride
March 29, 2009 04:03PM

Story-wise, Jerry Belson's "Jekyll & Hyde... Together Again" (1982) stays faithful to the century-old tradition of movie adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella. A brilliant doctor, attempting to isolate his good and evil sides, mixes up (or in this case, cuts up on a mirror) a chemical formula that turns him into a brutal, lecherous fiend.

But "Together Again" is closer to "Porky's" than the gothic horror of the earlier classics. This juvenile, politically-incorrect satire suffers from poor production and saggy comic timing. The now-forgotten Mark Blankfield (who once reprised Steve Martin's role in a sequel to – are you ready for this? - "The Jerk") shines as the air-humping, animalistic Hyde, but blows it as surgeon Jekyll, where his delivery comes across as awkward adlibbing.

Blankfield is convincing in the scenes where Jekyll tries talking himself into flushing his coke, I mean formula, down the toilet. Exulting in drug references from the opening credits, where a nose with a dollar-bill coke straw slurps up the movie title, "Together Again" brings to mind images of its cast crouching in toilet stalls between takes.

The back-story, if sordid Hollywood drug drama holds your interest, is undoubtedly a better yarn than the film.

I remember "Together Again" being on one of the movie channels when I was a kid. It seemed like they played it ten times a day. My mom told me I couldn't watch it (probably because of the scene where a cross-dressing plastic surgeon accidentally inflates a patient's breasts to hilarious proportions, the closest thing to real nudity in the film), but of course I did anyway.

Recent viewings of two earlier, iconic versions of Jekyll and Hyde prompted me to return to this hazy childhood memory. I imagined finding a lost gem. In this column, I hope to recommend neglected films, not to trash old movies and reinforce the vanilla practice of only choosing films from the new releases section.

Not this time. I'll be honest. "Together Again" should be viewed by those who enjoy getting together with friends and laughing at cheap trash on the screen. But people who love the eighties (I'm not one of them) for "The Breakfast Club" and Michael J. Fox should stay away from "Together Again" - it'll probably hurt your feelings.

I will praise the film for its irreverent spirit and satirical attempts, particularly when it targets the medical establishment. The slick hospital (Our Lady of Pain & Suffering) where Jekyll operates contains a dark charity ward that looks like a Dickensian workhouse, complete with moans and maniacal shrieking. Jekyll’s rich-girl fiancé (Bess Armstrong), the daughter of a surgeon, carelessly bursts in with armfuls of shopping bags, chirping, "Hello, sick people!"

Jekyll's boss and father-in-law, Dr. Carew (Michael McGuire) sums up the institution's ethos: "We gotta keep those machines working to pay for them. They help people back from the brink of death. And the only way to put ‘em on the brink of death is surgery."