Retro-review: New on DVD from MVD Visual/Cheezy Movies; help me out and pick it up on DVD/BluRay here on Amazon!
DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL (1954)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Jack Pollexfen
Starring John Agar, Gloria Talbott, Arthur Shields, John Dierkes, Mollie McCard, Martha Wentworth, Marjorie Stapp
While this film’s foundation is made of the finest of cheddar, DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL is made entertaining by some solid performances and a simple Saturday afternoon matinee version of fun.
The intro to DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL sets a tone that really doesn’t prevail through the rest of the film focusing on the profile of Mr. Hyde as a narrator talks about Jekyll’s tragic demise and his scientific form of lycanthropy that he has tapped into with his arcane science. The intro ends with the narrator saying that the threat of Dr. Jekyll died with him transitioning to the lights raising to show Mr. Hyde giggling to the camera and whispering “Are you sure?” We are then introduced to Janet Smith (the enchanting Gloria Talbott) who inherits a manor and with it Jekyll’s legacy, as the caretaker Dr. Lomas (Arthur Shields) informs her early in the film. Along for the ride is John Agar as Janet’s fiancée George Hastings and together the couple are as wholesome as apple pie. Upon learning of her relation to Jekyll, Janet begins having nightmares that she is turning wolfy and murdering people in the nearby village. But has Janet inherited the curse of Jekyll or is something more evil afoot?
The hokey intro make me laugh out loud when I first saw it (the scene is repeated, inexplicably, at the end of the movie), but Talbott, Shields, and Agar play things pretty straight during the movie proper. There is definitely a cheap look and feel to this film, especially in the rather flimsy plot, obvious twists, and cliched sequences of damsels running into the woods and hesitant explorations through the manor looking for secrets. Because Talbott is such a personable beauty, she makes the whole thing work and Shields does a great job as the heavy taking care of all of the opposition. The dream sequences are fun as Janet runs aimlessly through foggy, burned out forests and aside from some odd turns, I found myself having fun along with this film.
One thing I found interesting is the link this film makes between Jekyll’s science and lycanthropy. Numerous times, Hyde is referred to as a werewolf, which I have never seen before in most Jekyll/Hyde films. Usually, the scientifically made werewolf is not explored or touched upon (save for 1956’s monster on the loose film THE WEREWOLF where a wolf man is created in a lab). While the visage of Hyde has always been animalistic, to my recollection, he has never been referred to as a werewolf and more of a reflection of man’s worst and uncivilized side. Sure, that can be categorized as a werewolf in the broadest of terms, but I think this may mark the first time these two monster legends were merged.
As with most Jekyll/Hyde films, the transformation sequence is always a treat. The camera catches every step of the transformation here, which highlights some decent special effects, yet screeches the narrative to a halt so everyone can see the man turn to monster. I always laugh at these sequences because the astonished victim is frozen in place watching the transformation along with the viewer rather than running for their lives as they should be. But the growing of hair on the face and hands and the acquisition of fangs really does a decent job, despite how simple the makeup really is. Janet in full transformation mode is somewhat goofy looking, but for the most part, the dream sequences she experiences are definitely the highlight of the movie.
I can’t say DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL chilled me much, but I did chuckle a time or two at the tongue in cheek way this film was made. It’s a forgettable, yet ultimately harmless little sequel, but worth a watch for old school horror fans.
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