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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman Blu-ray Review


Mondo Macabro

Blu-ray Release: May 7, 2024

Video: 1.66:1/1080p/Color

Audio: English and Castilian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono (Spanish cut); English DTS-Master Audio 2.0 mono (export cut)

Subtitles: English (Spanish cut only)

Run Time: 85:56 (Spanish version), 88:13 (export version)

Director: León Klimovsky


Wolfman Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) comes to swinging ‘70s London, seeking a cure to his malady. Unfortunately, he meets with Dr. Jekyll (Jack Taylor), who injects him with a serum that turns him into the lascivious killer, Mr Hyde. In his top hat and black cloak, Hyde haunts the fleshpots of Soho, while two gorgeous women fight for possession of his wolfman soul. (From Mondo Macabro’s official synopsis)



Once upon a time, a professional weightlifter and developing actor named Jacinto Molina Álvarez developed a script based on his love of Universal Studios’ Wolf Man movies, entitled La Marca del Hombre Lobo (Mark of the Wolfman). German investors were impressed enough to produce a film version of Molina’s story in 1968, directed by Enrique López Eguiluz and starring the screenwriter under the German-approved pseudonym Paul Naschy. La Marca del Hombre Lobo was a hit and led to an entire franchise of films starring ‘Naschy’ as the cursed werewolf, Count Waldemar Daninsky. There were (arguably) 12 entries in the El Hombre Lobo saga, including ‘80s revival Night of the Werewolf (Spanish: El Retorno del Hombre Lobo; aka: The Craving, 1980), a Japanese co-production called The Beast and the Magic Sword (Spanish: La Bestia y la Espada Magica, 1983), and Fred Olen Ray’s failed ‘00s revival Tomb of the Werewolf (2003). Right in the middle of the pack was León Klimovsky’s Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman (Spanish: Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo, 1972).


Molina’s films are often fairly dismissed by their critics as derivative and the El Hombre Lobo series, in particular, had issues with repetition as it carried on. The years prior to Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman, he’d already experimented with the monster mash formula, including Hugo Fregonese & Tulio Demicheli’s Assignment: Terror (Spanish: Los Monstruos del Terror; aka: Dracula vs. Frankenstein, 1970), where Daninsky battles a pseudo-Dracula, a mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster, then again to massive success for The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (Spanish: La Noche de Walpurgis, 1970). Monster mash refers to the practice of combining multiple classic movie monsters into a single film that was first popularized by Universal in the 1940s with titles like Roy William Neill’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and Charles Barton’s Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). This was also a popular contrivance for Mexican horror comedies and luchador movies, which almost certainly helped inspire Molina.



Another monster mash might at first seem stale, at least on paper. However, Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman offers a genuinely clever twist on the concept. Instead of pitting two monsters against each other in a physical contest, Molina ties the mash-up to Daninsky’s endless search for a cure to his lycanthropy by making the murderous Mr. Hyde persona a side effect of a failed treatment. In effect, Hyde is the greater evil, honing the chaotic, animalistic violence of El Hombre Lobo and turning it into concentrated, deliberate malice. The alternate English title Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf isn’t even technically inaccurate, since Dr. Jekyll, not Hyde, is the latest person ruining Daninsky’s life. Because it wouldn’t be a Spanish horror movie without a little misogyny, Jekyll’s sexy, sadistic, and irrationally jealous assistant Sandra (Mirta Miller) is the greater villain.


In execution, the clever concept is, of course, a little clumsy, as almost all of Molina’s horror films are. The actor/writer’s tin ear for dialogue and one-damn-thing-after-another style of storytelling are acquired tastes, but, for those that have acquired them, Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman has top tier franchise flavor. Klimovsky was also one of the better directors that the star worked with during this period, along with Javier Aguirre and Carlos Aured. He does a respectful impression of Hammer regulars Terence Fisher and Freddie Francis on half the budget and his frantic (some might say sloppy) action scenes really sell the Wolfman’s frenzied attacks. Intended or not, even the stiffly-shot city and daylight set sequences aptly clash with the infinitely more cinematic-looking rural settings, foggy night streets, and Gothically furnished locations, establishing an effective clash between modern and old world aesthetics. 



The eponymous doctor (technically the grandson of the original Jekyll) is portrayed by American-born Eurohorror favorite Jack Taylor, who was actually making horror and sci-fi movies in Mexico a few years before Molina was trying to convince Fascist dictatorship censors that Spanish genre movies were a good idea. Taylor is typically associated with Jess Franco via Necronomicon (aka: Succubus, 1968), Count Dracula (German: Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht, 1970), Eugenie...The Story of Her Journey into Perversion (aka: Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy of the Boudoir, 1970), Female Vampire (Spanish: La comtesse noire, 1973), among many, many others. He was paired again with Molina in 1975 on Aured’s The Mummy’s Revenge (Spanish: La venganza de la momia) and Juan Bosch’s Exorcismo, and had previously worked with Klimovsky on paella western Billy the Kid (Spanish: Fuera de la ley, 1964) and The Vampires Night Orgy (Spanish: La orgía nocturna de los vampiros, 1973). Almost 90 years old, Taylor is, as of this writing, still working on occasion. 



Video

I don’t believe Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman was ever released on North American VHS tape, though there were bootlegs aplenty. The only official US DVD release was a website exclusive double-feature with Vampires Night Orgy from Code Red, though grey market discs from companies like Treasure Box also exist. Mondo Macabro’s first shot at the film was an anamorphic PAL UK disc way back in 2003. Two decades later and Mondo now finally presents the film in high definition. As they’d done with their release of Stephen Sayadian Dr. Caligari (1989), Mondo initially offered a limited edition 4K UHD. With that sold out, they’ve now released a standard edition 1080p Blu-ray version, which is what I’m reviewing here. 


This disc includes two cuts of the film. A title card explains that there are at least four versions of the film. Mondo only had access to a 4K scan of the Spanish version, which features censored ‘clothed’ sex scenes. In the interest of presenting a more complete version, they pulled footage from a 16mm print, digital SD, and analog tape sources, compiling them into a separate export cut. Naturally, those insert shots are inconsistent in quality. The 4K scan footage is limited by cinematographer Francisco Fraile’s soft photography and a few flatly lit day-for-night and darker interior shots, which might have benefitted from the UHD’s HDR enhancement, but is lacking punch in standard 1080p. When the lighting is dynamic, though, it’s about as effective a transfer as we can expect from the material. Grain levels have nice grit to them that doesn’t grow too chunky, though, again, I assume they’d appear tighter on the UHD disc. 



Audio

Assuming you’re watching the Spanish cut, Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman is presented with Spanish and English dub options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Like their Italian counterparts, Spanish horror and exploitation was typically shot without synced sound, so all tracks are dubbed. In this case, some actors, like Jack Taylor, appear to be speaking English on set (Taylor seems to have dubbed his own performance, too), but, otherwise, most folks are speaking Castilian Spanish. The English dub is a little more consistent, but also more muffled, while the Spanish track is a hair louder with notably more crackle. Neither track has much in the way of effects work, beyond eerie wind, the diegetic musical bustle of Soho strip clubs, and necessary foley, like footsteps. Antón García Abril’s score is minimal, but pretty unique, including some evocative vibrato organ, eerie vocals, and dissonant woodwind motifs.



Extras

  • Commentary by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn –  This new, exclusive track with the Naschycast podcasters is available with both cuts of the film with slight edits. Barnett and Guinn offer up a typically jovial and well-researched look at the making of the film, Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman’s place in the El Hombre Lobo and Spanish horror pantheons, what makes a Naschy/Molina movie special, the larger careers of the cast & crew, the film’s odd two-part structure, and the tradition of censored Spanish cuts. They also read from cast & crew interviews at a few points.

  • Paul Naschy: Memoirs of a Wolfman (18:40, SD) – In this archival interview from 2002, Naschy discusses his love of monsters, working with Klimovsky, monster mashes (he calls them monster cocktails), his favorite actresses, critics, Spanish politics, and the making of The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (under the alternate title The Werewolves Shadow) and Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman

  • Inside Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman (22:43, HD) – A new interview with Molina’s son, Sergio, who chats about the making of the film, along with his father’s relationship with Klimovsky and Carlos Aured (including some behind-the-scenes anecdotes), his affection for Victorian era literature, his version of Hyde, and physical fitness.

  • Jack Taylor, Testigo del Fantastico (31:15, SD) – A 2018 featurette by Diego Lopez-Fernandez on the career of Jack Taylor. Taylor himself talks about his childhood, education, early love of films and stageplays, meeting Marilyn Monroe on The Jack Benny Show, moving to Mexico and then Spain for film roles, working with Jess Franco and Amando de Ossorio, other behind-the-scenes work, his roles in John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982), Juan Piquer Simón’s Pieces’ (Spanish: Mil gritos tiene la noche, 1982), Roman Polanski’s dreadful Ninth Gate (1999), and Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano (2013), among others, and his enduring cult legacy.

  • Jack Taylor on Fantaterror (16:06, HD) – In this Mondo exclusive new interview, Taylor further discusses his Eurocult past, including his Franco, de Ossorio, Simón, and José Ramón Larraz films, shooting Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman, other work with Klimovsky, friendship with Molina, and 2014 short film Wax by Víctor Matellano.

  • Sanitarium Klimovsky (30:46, HD) –  Aforementioned filmmaker Victor Matellano wraps things up with interview with a look back at Klimovsky’s filmography, his work with low budgets and accelerated deadlines, his amicable reputation, his relationship with Molina, the logistics of multi-country co-productions, and various behind-the-scenes antics. 


The images on this page are taken from the BDs and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.

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