Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf (1972)


Finally, Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf (1972) is the Paul Naschy/Waldemar Daninsky movie I’ve been hoping I’d see! It has everything I want in a Eurohorror film and hits all my 1970s sweet spots. If you’ve ever watched a movie and felt energized afterwards, or wanted to immediately watch it again, you know how I felt after this one.

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The movie opens in “modern day” London. At the wedding party for Imre Kosta (Jose Marco) and his new wife, Justine (Shirley Corrigan), the werewolf rules are re-established during a conversation about hunting and split personalities with one of the guests, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor), grandson of the Henry Jekyll.

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Imre is thrilled to be going to Hungary for his honeymoon. He’s determined to find the graves of his ancestors, even if they lie in the “old” cemetery, where it’s recommended no one go. This part of the film has all the gothic trappings: they get lost, their car breaks down, and a castle overlooks the cemetery. The sun never shines, nor should it, on this little piece of the world.

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Nearly the entire first half of Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf takes place in creepy-as-heck Hungary. While stories of monsters and witches go with the territory, it’s human beings in the form of thieves that inflict the most damage, killing Imre and almost killing Justine if not for the intervention of the man from the castle, Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy.)

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Their time together in the castle gives Justine a more measured opportunity to fall in love with Waldemar. Rather than a plot point assigned arbitrarily, their romance evolves naturally… at least, more than in the other Daninsky films. By the time the torch-bearing villagers have forged silver bullets to storm the castle, Justine is aware of Waldemar’s “illness” and…

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…promises him hope for a cure back in London with Henry Jekyll. The movie switches gears now and we’re out of the world of Horror of Dracula and into the world of Dracula A.D. 1972. Even though it’s hard to imagine how they could possibly be, these parts are two great tastes that taste great together!

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The highlight of the movie is a scene in which an elevator inconveniently stalls between floors with Waldemar and a pretty, young nurse aboard. Trapped during the rise of the full moon, Waldemar transforms and rips out her throat. Then the elevator moves so that he can lunge out into the crowd, leaving the bloody body inside.

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Since this happened in Henry’s office building, Henry and his assistant, Sandra (Mirta Miller), must set up a lab somewhere else. The plan is to inject Waldemar with his grandfather’s formula and let him change into “Mr. Hyde.” Then, when the moon is full, the two personalities can, in essence, cancel each other out. Or something like that.

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The unexpected joy of Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf is experiencing Paul Naschy as Mr. Hyde. He is one nasty creature, making me long to have seen him in a full-length adaptation of the classic tale. The makeup is simple, yet terrifying, and Naschy lets loose in a way that’s different from how he does it as the werewolf.

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In another incredibly well-done scene by director Leon Klimosky, Mr. Hyde sits with his next potential victim at a London nightclub when the formula wears off. During the strobe effect from the dance floor, he transforms from Hyde to Waldemar to the werewolf. Then, he races out of there to find Justine for a truly emotional climax.

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The finale threatens to be a letdown, the only thing about which I could complain. However, the final shot redeems it, and any criticisms I have about it pull out of the scene and rise above it along with the camera. It’s satisfying in a way the other Daninsky films have not been for me. Everything that happened before worked effortlessly to deliver the film’s rewards.

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Part of a good Eurohorror film for me is also its depravity, and we get it here like we haven’t yet seen from Naschy. It turns out Sandra feels jilted by Henry when Justine returns to London; so, she literally stabs Henry in the back and hangs Justine naked so that she and Hyde can whip her while calling her a bitch. It’s almost too much… almost.

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The music by Anton Garcia Abril and Adolofo Waltzman is perfectly eerie and beautiful, at times evoking my beloved Dark Shadows. The imperfect version I watched on Amazon Prime might actually work in its favor. I’m not sure I would feel the same grit and grime on a crisp, clear Blu-ray edition, although I’m not saying I wouldn’t instantly buy it if there was one.

Written by Paul Naschy

Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Starring Paul Naschy, Shirley Corrigan, Jack Taylor, Mirta Miller, Jose Marco

RT 96 min.

Released May 6, 1972 (Spain)

Home Video Amazon Prime

Rating 9 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)


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