Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf
1972 / Colour / 83 m. / Spain / Dr Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo
Starring: Paul Naschy, Jack Taylor, Mirtha Miller, Shirley Corrigan, Jose Marco, Luis Induni, Barta Barry, Luis Gaspar, Elsa Zabala, Lucy Tiller, Jorge Vico, Adolfo Tohus
Cinematography: Francisco Fraile
Production Designer: Jose Aleguero
Film Editor: Petrita de Nieva
Original Music: Anton Garcia Abril
Written by: Jacinto Molina
Produced by: Arturo Gonzalez
Directed by: Leon Klimovsky
Reviewed by Lee Broughton
Imre (Jose Marco) and Justine (Shirley Corrigan) are honeymooning in modern day Transylvania when they are attacked by bandits. Imre is killed but Justine is rescued by Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), a Polish nobleman who is also a werewolf. When the bandits’ vengeful boss leads the local villagers in an attack on Daninsky’s castle, Daninsky and Justine flee to London. Now in love with Daninsky, and fully aware of his lycanthropic condition, Justine asks her friend Dr Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor) if he can help in any way.
Jekyll figures that the solution should be relatively simple: injecting Daninsky with his grandfather’s infamous experimental serum, just before the full moon rises, will allow the emerging Mr Hyde persona to overcome and vanquish Daninsky’s werewolf persona forever. Once this has been achieved, the Mr Hyde persona will itself be eliminated by the administration of a new antidote that Jekyll has recently perfected. Unfortunately, the actions of Jekyll’s duplicitous assistant, Sandra (Mirtha Miller), result in Mr Hyde breaking free and roaming the streets of London once more.
At the tender age of eight, Spaniard Paul Naschy (AKA Jacinto Molina) caught a screening of Universal’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Roy William Neill, USA, 1943) and his life was changed forever. Falling in love with Lon Chaney Jr’s Wolf Man character, Naschy grew up to create his very own celluloid werewolf persona, a romantic European nobleman called Waldemar Daninsky who turns into a furry-faced lycanthrope whenever a full moon graces the night sky.
Daninsky’s initial celluloid outing, The Mark of the Werewolf (Enrique L. Eguiluz, Spain/West Germany, 1968), is generally recognized as being Spain’s first real horror film and Naschy’s love of Monster-fests such as the aforementioned Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and The House of Frankenstein (Erle C. Kenton, USA, 1944) ensured that his long running series of Daninsky films would include guest appearances by a whole host of familiar cinematic monsters.
Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf was Naschy’s fifth outing as Daninsky and the second in the series to be directed by Leon Klimovsky. An Argentinean who relocated to Spain, Klimovsky helmed a number of lower division Spaghetti Westerns before finding his feet in the horror genre. In an interview for Pete Tombs’ Eurotika television series, Naschy affectionately remembered Klimovsky as being a fast and efficient director while conceding that his films could be a bit uneven at times.
While this assessment of Klimovsky’s work is a fair one, Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf functions reasonably well at a technical level. There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a low budget European horror flick but – when compared to some of its Euro-horror stablemates – Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf sports pretty decent production values for much of its quite evenly paced running time.
In fact, the only noticeably uneven sections of this show are those that were hurriedly shot on location in London. The scenes that depict Mr Hyde swanning around Soho are a nice touch and the film’s location establishing shots that feature the bright lights of Swinging London work well enough too. But other shots of the capital’s iconic buildings and tourist attractions tend to possess the flat and unexciting look of the rushed travelogue-like footage that was often used to pad out the running times of low budget Euro-cult flicks.
In keeping with the film’s Swinging London vibe, Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf’s soundtrack features some great ‘swinging sounds’. Similarly, some of the show’s Transylvania-set scenes feature some suitably spooky music. However, there are odd sequences present throughout the film where the music employed is either somewhat incongruous or just plain cheesy.
The seemingly rushed and indifferently shot and scored sequences described above are offset by others which are, by comparison, particularly effective. Indeed, Klimovsky does some pretty good work in three key scenes.
The first features the requisite Transylvanian innkeeper (Barta Barry) offering cautionary warnings to Imre and Justine about local supernatural threats. The second features Justine exploring Daninsky’s gothic castle by candlelight before being chased around its dungeons by Daninsky. The third features a desperate Daninsky attending his first appointment with Dr Jekyll only to find himself stuck in a lift with a pretty nurse while a full moon inexorably rises outside.
The earnest and intense acting style favoured by Naschy has on occasion resulted in him being likened to legendary scenery chewers like William Shatner. But such comparisons are surely intended in a complimentary way. Much like Shatner at his best, Naschy is having so much fun and projects such infectious enthusiasm that it is simply impossible to be overly critical of his endeavours here.
And Naschy is actually very effective in parts, particularly when he transforms into the heinous Mr Hyde. And, as the werewolf, he pulls off an extremely good crowd scene in a groovy night-club where his transformation is enhanced by the disco’s strobe lighting and clever optical freeze-frame effects.
Euro-cult stalwart Jack Taylor is perfectly cast as the distracted and aloof Dr Jekyll. A regular in the films of Jess Franco, Taylor possesses a distinctive look and an acting ability that has brought a touch of class to many a low budget Euro-cult feature. He regularly bags the odd part in mainstream films too such as Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate (Spain/France/USA, 1999).
Shirley Corrigan and Mirtha Miller both turn in reasonably good performances as the female leads: Corrigan has no trouble fitting the bill as the typically 1970s’ classy blonde love interest while the particularly attractive Miller is feisty enough to be convincing as Jekyll’s insanely jealous assistant. A former model, Miller possesses an exquisite pair of eyebrows and delivers many of her lines in an intensely sensual manner.
It takes a special kind of imagination to dream up a story like Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf and a special kind of determination to ultimately see such a project committed to film. You can’t really avoid odd touches of unpleasantness in a story that features vicious bandits, a baying mob of angry townsfolk, Mr Hyde and a werewolf but it’s clear that Naschy and Klimovsky’s prime objective here was to provide entertainment by delivering a fairly traditional Monster mash-cum-horror yarn.
Screen International’s Marjorie Bilbow seems to have approached the film with the right attitude, describing it as being “deliciously daft.” Ultimately, if you’ve got the imagination and the goodwill to meet Naschy and company half way here, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something of worth in this intriguing little feature.
Psychotronic Cinemas rating: Good +
© Copyright 2002, 2017 Lee Broughton.