FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *metaphysical, psychological*
The sixth film in the "Waldermar Daninsky" series proves to be one of the most listless.
Like most of the other films, JEKYLL starts from square one. Englishwoman Justine and her rich husband travel to Central Europe to visit his parents' graves. However, car thieves attack the couple and kill Justine's husband. They are only prevented by the intrusion of a local nobleman, Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), who beats up the bandits and kills one of them, He then takes Justine back to his castle, where he lives alone with his mother. For reasons undisclosed, Waldemar is cursed to change into a werewolf, which has caused the local village to regard the castle's inhabitants with dread, and to believe (falsely) that Waldemar's mother is a witch. However, one of the thieves resents the killing of his accomplice (and brother), so he rouses the locals against the castle. The bandit even kills Waldemar's innocent mother, but though Waldemar manages to kill him in return, he realizes that he must flee the country, and so he and Justine depart for England.
I've dwelled on this amount of detail about the film's first third for one purpose: to show how much time the script wastes on things that the audience doesn't really care about. Naschy, who scripted a lot of his own "Hombre Lobo" films, may have thought that he needed a de rigeur "old castle" scene, and that this could be used as an excuse to propel Justine into the wolfman's world. Still, even knowing that the innocent young thing is destined to fall hard for hairy-chested Waldemar, as they usually do in Naschy's wolf-films, the script really doesn't portray any romantic tension between Justine and Waldemar. Of course, during her initial stay in the castle, Justine is mourning her murdered husband, but even these scenes are handled in dismissive fashion.
Therefore Justine and Waldemar aren't lovers when they reach England, though she's decided to do everything she can to help him conquer his lupine curse. She just happens to know Henry Jekyll, grandson of the famous scientist of Victorian times, and she appeals to Jekyll for help. Conveniently, Jekyll decides that he may be able to destroy the curse by injecting Waldemar with both the original "Mister Hyde" serum and its antidote. I guess the two serums are supposed to act like a vaccine, driving out one evil with another, though the explanation leaves something to be desired.
The only good thing to come out of this melange is that when Naschy responds to the serum and takes on a "Mister Hyde" persona, he really looks pretty good in the role. He hardly has any time to do anything nefarious, though, because Jekyll's trying to get him ready for the next step in the experiment. Unfortunately, Jekyll nurses an unrequited love for Justine, and his lab assistant Sandra carries her own torch for the doctor, while being insanely jealous of Justine. She kills Jekyll and sabotages the experiment, and probably anyone who's seen even two of Naschy's wolf-films knows that things can only end with the old "silver bullet to end his suffering" routine. JEKYLL may not be the worst Naschy film, or even his worst wolf-film, but it doesn't have much to make one want to watch it again. Even the lead female, who's usually played by some gorgeous model-type, is essayed by a singularly underwhelming actress, one Shirley Corrigan.