PURE TERROR MONTH: Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf (1971)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Freese has been a staff writer for Videoscope Magazine since 1998. He also contributes to Drive-in Asylum. 

Beautiful, young Justine (Shirley Corrigan) travels with her much older new husband to visit the final resting place of his parents. There, a trio of trouble making brothers attack and kill her husband before Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) shows up, busts some heads, kills two of the thugs and saves Justine, who passes out.

She awakens in Daninsky’s castle to an old housekeeper watching over her, who assures her she is safe (The village people refer to the residents of the “Black Castle” as, “a witch and the Devil himself.”).

Whenever the full moon peeks out from behind the dark clouds, Daninsky turns into a werewolf and noshes on whoever is unlucky enough to be out. When Justine learns of Daninsky’s touch of lycanthropy, she convinces him to return to modern London with her to meet a friend who might be able to help him out, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor).

Running late for his first appointment to see the doc, a power outage traps Daninsky in a clinic elevator with a pretty, young nurse (It’s “El Hombre Lobo of London” time after Daninsky transforms into the werewolf inside the elevator, feasts on the nurse and escapes the clinic after the elevator doors are finally pried open.).

Dr. Jekyll’s master plan is to shoot Daninsky up with his grandfather’s famous elixir and allow the Mr. Hyde part of Danindky’s psyche to overpower and overthrow the werewolf part. Once the Hyde persona is fully in control, Jekyll will inject an antidote into him and presto-chango, Daninisky is cured from being a werewolf. 

Everything works until Jekyll’s jealous assistant Sandra (Mirta Miller) double crosses him and re-injects Daninsky with the Hyde juice. Seems she loves the doctor, but he only has eyes for Justine, who now loves Daninsky, so Sandra figures she will use Mr. Hyde to torture Justine, which he does, with a big grin on his face while he does it. What Sandra doesn’t figure on is Mr. Hyde being a bigger psychopath than she is, and soon we got Mr. Hyde practically skipping through Soho looking for prostitutes to decimate and destroy.

Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf (aka Doctor Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo) is a perfect example of the kind of movie they no longer make. Naschy, writing the screenplay under his real name, Jacinto Molina, fills his plot with so much story, pathos, soap opera drama and gratuitous monster attacks, no true monster fan will be able to resist its charms (Among the best moments is a scene where Mr. Hyde wanders into a hip Soho disco, only to change back into Daninsky, then change into El Hombre Lobo and clean the place out!).

Jack Taylor is pretty great as the sketchy Doc Jekyll and Mirta Miller seems to be having a good time playing the true villain of the piece. When Naschy portrays Mr. Hyde he does so with a sinister grin and a hairpiece that recalls not so much Fredric March or Spencer Tracy, but more Bugs Bunny from the 1955 short “Hyde and Hare.”

The earnestness Naschy puts into all his monster portrayals is truly the work of a master craftsman and he always seems to be having the time of his life in his creature features (Naschy should certainly be considered one of the true icons of horror, alongside other greats as Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., Vincent Price, Barbra Steele, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.).

Naschy fans are split on the order of his El Hombre Lobo/Daninsky series, as the second film, 1968’s The Nights of the Wolf Man is a lost film (Naschy himself never recalled seeing it, but did remember going to Paris for a week to shoot his scenes.). Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf is the fifth film to see actual release in the series, but the sixth film in the series, including the lost second chapter.

I watched the version available from Code Red (on a double feature disc with Vampires Night Orgy). While most sources peg the running time at 96 minutes, the Code Red version runs 88 minutes, as opposed to the edited, 72 minute version included on the Pure Terror collection (It’s safe to say this truncated version is missing buckets of brutal sadism, gratuitous nudity and abundant monster violence.).

Regardless of what version you watch, Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf is a treat, made by a man who truly loved his monsters for fans who share that love.

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