Thursday, March 27, 2014

Monster Team-up Reflection #10: Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf

Some claim that Robert Louis Stevenson's "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is, in fact, the first mainstream werewolf story. Sorry, but I've never bought into this, even with "Werewolf of London" distinctly grazing upon the notion. The way I see it, there are many shape-shifting elements among various monsters, and Edward Hyde is but one result.

However, there is justification in making the werewolf connection to the Stevenson classic when it comes to horror icon, Paul Naschy, for he concocted such an official cinematic mix in "Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf (aka, "Dr. Jekyll el Hombre Lobo", "Night of the Blood Wolf"), directed by Leon Klimovsky (who previously helmed "Werewolf vs Vampire Woman". penned by Naschy, released in '72 and the sixth in the Waldemar Daninsky franchise.

"Jekyll and Werewolf" is not a traditional monster-meets-monster merging, in that Naschy's werewolf never battles Hyde, but rather it's through an ill-fated cure that Hyde temporarily manifests in lieu of Daninisky's famous, furry alter-ego.

The first half of the modern-day yarn actually deals with a couple visiting the "old country" and the husband (Jose Marco) being murdered by thugs, leaving his fetching wife (Shirley Corrigan) to be rescued by Daninsky just before a potential rape. Daninsky grants her sanctuary, and from there, she falls for her gallant host, even though she is well aware of his lycanthropic affliction.

Angry villagers wish to do Daninsky in, but ultimately he flees with his lady fair to London, where she pleadingly approaches the grandson of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Euro-horror star, Jack Taylor) to remedy her man of his bestial tendencies.

Jekyll agrees and with the help of his lovely but jealous assistant (Mirta Miller, who also costars in Naschy's "Count Dracula's Great Love") proceeds to do just that. As such, when the moon turns full, Daninisky's wolf guise is replaced by the sinister scowl of a new Mr. Hyde!

Waldemar Hyde aptly captures all the crass behavior we'd expect from Stevenson's incorrigible fiend, and Naschy gets a fair sum of contemptuous mileage out the part, at least until Jekyll meets an untimely end and Daninsky's lycanthropy returns full force.
"Jekyll and Werewolf" is one of the best looking Daninsky efforts, with splendid cinematography by Franciscus Fraile, in both the rural and hip London scenes. Also, Corrigan and Miller offer an ample amount of eye-candy throughout the story. It's really hard not to gawk at them whenever they grace the screen.

On the other hand, the film may have benefited by being a bit longer, particularly when it comes to the actual monster footage, but overall, "Jekyll and Werewolf" is a solid try and at least grants quality moments to the antagonists. The scene where Daninsky grows furry alongside a nurse in an elevator, as well turning from Hyde to Wolfman in a psychedelic disco, are memorable and certainly two of the best moments in the entire franchise.

Above all, the atmospheric Hyde segments make one wonder what Naschy may have accomplished if he had simply concentrated on a straight-forward retelling of the Stevenson tale. If only rendered, there's a strong chance it would have gone down as one of the best film adaptations, but at least we get a taste of what he could do with the subject matter via this particular fun-filled merger.

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