GENTLEMAN JEKYLL AND DRIVER HYDE (1950) – Educational short films are often hilarious snapshots of their era. Driver’s Ed shorts are especially vulnerable to seeming outdated given how quickly car designs can change in certain decades.
This particular item is Canadian-made, proving that the Badfilm aesthetic is unfazed by international borders. (Yet Time Zones fill it with a vague sense of unease. Go figure.)
At any rate Gentleman Jekyll and Driver Hyde obviously takes its cue from Stevenson’s story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A pair of Canadian furniture movers – one tall and heavy, the other short and slender – bicker like a comedy team while discussing statistics which indicated that in 1950 a Canadian had a better chance of getting killed in a car accident than in a war.
Which I find to be a silly statistic. If it’s peacetime you probably have a better chance of dying from a piano dropping on your head than from a war. Wouldn’t it have been more ominous to say a person had a better chance of dying in a car accident than from heart disease or whatever physical ailment that a 1950 stat would indicate?
After some horrifically strained jokes “Laurel and Hardy, Eh” get to the meat of the matter: The way perfectly polite people can turn into figurative monsters when they get behind the wheel of a car. A kind, considerate man who just interacted with our two leads literally turns into a B-Movie monster thanks to editing and cheap makeup as he drives off.
From there viewers get the cheap laughs that always come from vintage Driver’s Ed shorts – being shown bad driving that borders on the psychotic. Gentleman Jekyll becomes such a lunatic as Driver Hyde that I found myself wishing a feature-length movie had been made from this material.
The fangs, horns and cheap fur keep you laughing all the way to Hyde’s arrival at his home. As he reverts to Jekyll upon exiting his car he tells his wife that he shaved off three minutes from his trip home. Gee, and all he had to do was drive like he was in Fast & Furious & Canadian & 1950 (& Black & White).
Back to the furniture movers, the bulkier one of whom shows off his Safe Driving Medallion – complete with French inscription – and condemns all of us amateur drivers who make the roads so unsafe for professionals like him.
It’s often easy to get cheap laughs out of unintended homo-eroticism in these old black & white relics and this one is no exception. It’s tough not to read something into the fey way the bulky driver acts as he turns into a literal angel with wings when HE gets behind the wheel.
His little buddy eagerly hops into the truck with him like he’s thinking to himself “We always have the BEST sex when he’s into his angel cosplay!” The pair ride off together and we viewers assume that moving more furniture is the last thing they have on their minds.
Happily for non-fans of blood and gore this is a very tame Driver’s Ed film, so viewers have no need to brace their eyes (or stomachs) for the kind of sights in store from Red Asphalt or similar shorts.
Gentleman Jekyll and Driver Hyde would make for a nice Double Feature with the Canadian short The Energy Carol, reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog. +++
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