León Klimovsky, 1972
Starring: Paul Naschy, Shirley Corrigan, Jack Taylor, Mirta Miller
A wealthy man brings his new, young wife to Transylvania for their honeymoon. He wants to visit his parents’ graves, though the locals warn him away from the graveyard and nearby castle. They are almost immediately attack by some unsavory locals who wind up stabbing Imre to death and nearly raping his wife. She is saved in the nick of time by Waldemar Daninsky, an aristocratic werewolf living in the supposedly abandoned castle.
Though at first horrified, Justine recovers at Daninsky’s castle and they begin to fall in love. She adjusts to the news of her husband’s death and the fact that Daninsky is werewolf surprisingly well. Unfortunately the frenzied villagers don’t show any sign of letting up, so Daninsky follows Justine back to London, where she thinks her friend Dr. Jekyll can help cure him of his furry affliction. The sympathetic Jekyll, grandson of the infamous scientist, plans to inject Daninsky with the personality changing serum, in the hope that the Hyde personality will vanquish the werewolf. Unfortunately Jekyll’s jealous assistant has other plans…
Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo is the sixth film in Paul Naschy’s El Hombre Lobo series and, like most of the others, was written by and stars the man himself. As with the other El Hombre Lobo films, this is a lot of fun but is far from perfect. It seems a bit sloppy and cheap for a mid-period entry – the early cemetery set is particularly unattractive – but there is almost constant action and gorier fight scenes than the earlier films. Dr. Jekykll’s biggest issue is that it’s essentially two different films slammed together. The first act includes Imre Kosta and his much younger wife Justine journeying to Transylvania to visit his ancestral home. There is a lot of pointless violence – Imre is killed and Justine is attacked and nearly raped – seemingly just so Daninsky can meet and rescue her. This takes away from our time with Dr. Jekyll, who isn’t introduced until nearly 40 minutes into the running time.
Thematically and visually, there is an odd split between classic and modern horror. First we have Transylvania, angry villagers, a spooky castle, a witch, etc. Then the film abruptly moves to ‘70s London with modern, stylish sets, including a disco, and a female revenge plot. I think films like Hammer’s Dracula A.D. 1972 or Count Yorga, Vampire are superior because the action sticks with present day, rather than the awkward transition between traditional and modern, rural and urban.
Naschy does deliver a very fun and sadistic Mr. Hyde with a great, period costume straight from Victorian London. Unlike earlier portrayals, he is largely unrestrained by censorship and is allowed to go fairly off the rails, which including raping and whipping Justine and then murdering the (literally) back-stabbing Sandra, Jekyll’s traitorous assistant. He’s clearly having a wonderful time with role and jumps enthusiastically between the tragic Daninsky, the Wolf Man, and Mr. Hyde for the final act of the film. One of the most enjoyable scenes involves Hyde’s trip to a disco, where he seems about the repeat the scene from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he first meets Ivy. Instead, the strobe lights cause him to transform into a werewolf right in the middle of the club. Unfortunately we don’t see him attack anyone, though I’m hoping there is a more fully uncut print than the version I saw.
Jess Franco-regular Jack Taylor (Pieces) puts in a good performance as Dr. Jekyll, though it’s a shame he wasn’t given more screen time. His relationship with Justine is poorly explained and his affair with Sandra – and the reason why she hates him – is also rushed. I was also surprised to see Jekyll killed off so quickly after his introduction. It would be more interesting to see Hyde battling Hyde, rather than the murder/revenge plot where Jekyll is quickly dispatched.
The other performances are average to somewhat ludicrous (all the Transylvanian townsfolk), though leading lady Shirley Corrigan (The Devil’s Nightmare) is lovely. She particularly shines during the fine scene when she wanders Daninsky’s shadowy castle in black lingerie, holding a candelabra. She’s also one of the most thoroughly abused female characters in any of Naschy’s films and is treated roughly or exposed to some psychological shock for much of the proceedings.
Director Léon Klimovsky, one of Naschy’s biggest collaborators, returns from Werewolf Vs the Vampire Woman to direct Dr. Jekyll. I think the previous film is superior, particularly where imagery and atmosphere is concerned, but he does a decent job here. Most of the issues are with Naschy’s script and the obviously low budget. Anton Garcia Abril also returns to once again provide an excellent score. He’s an underrated talent and is mostly known for his work on the Tombs of the Blind Dead series.
Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman comes recommended to fans of the other Naschy films or other B-grade ‘70s horror. He makes a fun Hyde, so lovers of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adaptations will also want to check this out. If you haven’t yet seen an El Hombre Lobo film, this is not the place to start. It’s available on DVD with The Vampires Night Orgy (1973), another film from Klimovsky, and it is also available to rent (streaming) on Amazon.