Janet Smith (Gloria Talbott) has come to England to her old family home, a mansion in the middle of the countryside, to see about her inheritance. She has brought her fiancé George Hastings (John Agar) with her for moral support, and on arrival there they are greeted at the door by the towering handyman Jacob (John Dierkes) who silently observes them and unnerves them too, until housekeeper Mrs Merchant (Martha Wentworth) intervenes and makes the couple feel more at home. It is here the old friend of the family and local doctor Lomas (Arthur Shields) appears, and hints he knows more about the mysterious past of Janet's father...
This was a B-movie from perhaps the greatest B-movie director of them all, though some will plump for Joseph H. Lewis, and as the work of Edgar G. Ulmer, for it was he, it has received more attention than many other cheapo horrors and science fiction pics have down the years. However, that was not to say every film helmed by him was a gem worthy of his fans' adulation, for even great auteurs have their off days, and while Daughter of Dr. Jekyll was amusing in its tacky manner, it was no unsung classic from the Golden Age of the Hollywood support feature. Though to be fair, that was largely down to one bizarre choice you cannot imagine was Ulmer's.
For some reason the film was topped and tailed with a seriously cheesy pair of bookends, which basically blew the surprise twist that occurred near the end. The identity of the villain, while it was something that maybe was not too difficult to work out, was given away within seconds of the film starting in a jokey manner that even William Castle would have balked at, so we could all see the werewolf who was rampaging through the plot was not the title character, but the Dr Lomas one. Once you were aware of that, it only remained to find out how he was doing what he was doing, with even the whys and wherefores somewhat murky, aside from the inheritance.
That plot had Janet, having presumably had her name changed when she was a little girl to protect her identity, discovering via Lomas's "kindness and concern" that her father was the famed Dr. Jekyll (a name nobody in the film can settle on one way to pronounce). He had taken a self-created potion that turned him into Mr Hyde, that we all know, but what we were not aware of was the evil Mr Hyde was a werewolf (!). Now, the connection between the werewolf myth and the Robert Louis Stevenson book may not be too much of a stretch, they both involve good men transforming into monsters after some malign influence after all, but the original novel was not so explicit, and more interested in moral dilemmas on a human scale rather than mankind giving in to the bestial side of his character.
So really this was a wolfman flick, despite posing as a wolfwoman flick, similar to the previous decade's She-Wolf of London of which this resembled a loose remake, not unusual in the low budget end of the motion picture business but something you kind of liked to think Ulmer was a little better than, no matter the poverty of his budget and resources. Janet keeps waking up with blood on her nightdress and scratches on her arms, as not coincidentally various young ladies from around the area are being found dead, attacked and ravaged by some unknown beast. Except we do know the beast thanks to the decision to ruin the suspense at the beginning of the movie. If you did persevere, Talbott did put in a creditable performance of a panicked woman alarmed she is afflicted with madness (you can tell she enjoyed this role, which she did), though Agar was a bit of a plank (in a loud jacket, even for black and white), and Shields was absurd as the avuncular (but not) prime suspect. It passed the time for aficionados.
I believe it was a bemused Andrew Sarris who wrote that anyone who loves cinema must be moved by Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. The product of an era when bad horror movies were inherently lovable. I doubt fans harbor any warm feelings about most of today's straight-to-VOD efforts. It's been a while since I saw this but doesn't Mr. Hyde break the fourth wall early on? I seem to remember that took me pleasantly off-guard. Edgar G. Ulmer made some legit good movies though like The Black Cat.
3 Jul 2019
Heck, Ulmer made Detour, which counts for plenty. Yes, the evil doctor breaks the fourth wall - in the first minute, as he gives away his secret identity!
5 Jul 2019
Oh dang, you're right, Detour! For some reason my brain always mistakes the director for Robert Siodmak. Yes, easily Ulmer's finest film.