[Tearing Through Werewolf Cinema] 'Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman' Blended Paul Naschy's Werewolf with Dr. Jekyll
Welcome to a weekly series in which Doris V. Sutherland takes readers on a trip through the history of werewolf cinema...
...Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman (originally released in 1972 as Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo) sees the return of Paul Naschy as werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. Back from the grave once again, Daninsky teams up with the beautiful Justine (Shirley Corrigan) as he tangles first with angry villagers, and then with the legacy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
While the previous instalment in the series--The Werewolf versus the Vampire Woman--was a bit sluggish, director León Klimovsky and writer-star Paul Naschy offer a much livelier sequel with Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman. The faster pace largely results from the film being, for all intents and purposes, two bitesize Daninsky films placed end to end. The first half is set in Transylvania, where Justine and her husband Imre (José Marco) visit on their honeymoon only to be attacked by robbers; Imre is killed (and swiftly forgotten by his widow, it has to be said) while Justine is rescued by Daninsky. She stays with him in his castle, only to find that her saviour is not well-liked in the community.
It’s hardly an original observation that, in classic horror films like Frankenstein, the torch-wielding mob is often the real monster; but Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman takes this concept further than most. The Transylvania portion of the film is completely on the side of its werewolf, who kills only to protect either himself or Justine, while the Village People (as Justine refers to them) collectively form the story’s antagonist. They even decapitate Daninsky’s surrogate mother Uswika Bathory (Elsa Zabala) in the mistaken belief that she’s a witch and carry her head on a stick as they march on the castle; this plot element was deemed iconic enough to be used on the film’s poster—although Uswika was apparently not photogenic enough, so the illustrator ended up drawing a severed head that looked more like Justine. Hmm.
In the latter portion of the film, Justine takes Daninsky to swinging London where she introduces him to an acquaintance of hers: Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor). The grandson of his notorious namesake, Jekyll has both his grandfather’s serum and a cure to it; he devises a plan to end Daninsky’s lycanthropy by first turning him into Mr. Hyde, and then giving him the cure. Yes, this is what passes for internal logic with the Daninsky films.
Taylor turns out to be a rather flat Jekyll, and the scene is stolen (and the scenery chewed) by Mirta Miller’s sultry nurse Sandra, who resents the attention Jekyll is getting from hottie Justine and sabotages the experiment after Daninsky has been turned into Mr. Hyde. What all this amounts to is an excuse for Paul Naschy to boost his monster portfolio by playing a stereotyped Hyde: pale skin, lank hair, bushy eyebrows, and—inexplicably—Victorian dress. Hyde-Daninsky’s rampage leads him to gate-crash a groovy disco, where he turns back into Wolfman-Daninsky. Why? Well, in a truly inspired addition to werewolf lore, it turns out that disco lights function in the same way as a full moon.
The central ethos of the Daninsky series has always been “what if the Universal crossovers lasted into the Hammer era?” With Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman, we see that aesthetic applied to an era when a past-its-prime, somewhat out-of-touch Hammer was producing the likes of Dracula A.D. 1972. The result is two monsters being thrown into a blender with a vague attempt at early-seventies hipness; it makes almost no sense whatsoever, but it remains hypnotically watchable.
By Doris V. Sutherland