There's nothing cooler than when two monsters go head-to-head. It seems like a no-brainer, but it really isn't something that happens all that often. Sure, we had monster mash is like House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, both for universal, but those films aren't very good. By the time those films were made Lon Chaney Jr had become a caricature as the Wolf Man, and I never liked John Carradine as Dracula. He always seemed a bit too frail. Universal's reign of terror really ended with the 1930s with the exception of the original Wolfman (1941), and the creature from the black lagoon (1954), arguably, one of the few good things to come out of the 1950s.
Europe, however, learned from these early ventures, and in the 1970s, one man rose to fame restoring classic monsters to their former glory, his name was Paul Naschy. Now she played almost every horror archetype in the book, appearing as Dracula, Frankenstein Monster (briefly), the mummy, hunchback, a zombie, and of course, the werewolf. Though he never played Dr. Jekyll, they did share the screen, in 1972’s Dr. Jekyll versus the werewolf.
This time we open in London where wealthy Imre Kosta (José Marco) enjoying the company of friends before leaving to Transylvania to celebrate his honeymoon with his new and practically jail-bait wife Justine (Shirley Corrigan of The Devil’s Nightmare). Imre is busy showing off his hunting trophies that hang on the wall. This leads to discussions about Lycanthropy. One of his guests, a Dr. named Henry, (Vampire’s Night Orgy and Ghost Galleon alum Jack Taylor), is disgusted by the conversations of man and beasts and excuses himself. Though Justine attempts to comfort Henry, Irme thinks little of the incident and parties on.
The next day they arrive in Baliavasta, a small town from which Imre is from, and grab lodgings at the only INN in town. Making small talk, he tells the innkeeper of his plans to visit the local cemetery and pay his respects to his parents. He is warned not to visit the cemetery and rather superfluously, the old black castle either. Apparently the entire village has gone to pot and he would do best to lock himself and his new bride up in their room. This may have been a good idea since the local unsavory types have been eyeing Justine since they walked in. This is not going well.
While they're at the cemetery (which rivals The Return of the Living Dead’s Resurrection Cemetery in dumpiness), the sleaze balls from the INN have followed them and break into a Imre’s Rolls Royce, he should've seen that coming. He decides that instead of getting his wife to safety, he's going to go save his car, and again things do not go well. Imre ends up face down on the ground, stabbed to death, as the sleaze balls attack Justine. But never fear, for once more, Waldemar is here!
Once again, Naschy makes an awesomely cool entrance, taking out the bad guys, and rescuing a half-naked hottie from a fate worse than death... maybe. Justine awakens (In true Waldemar fashion) in a bed wearing a slinky black nightgown (let's think about that for a second). It's dark, and not knowing where she is, she grabs a candelabrum and begins to wander. It's not long before she finds her husband, who of course is nowhere near (that's not how Waldernar rolls). His body is laid out on the dining table, with Waldemar standing above him. Justine freaks out and runs for it. This castle has got to be the coolest I've ever seen in a film. The corridors and stairways are beautifully Gothic and create a complete picture of the architecture without spending the time to pan around the sets. She eventually heads down into the dungeon area only to run into a disfigured derelict (who had scarred her outside the INN earlier) and Waldernar, who has cut her off. With nowhere left to run, she passes out. OK, let’s try this again. She wakes again, only this time in a brightly lit room, with Uswika Bathory (Elsa Zabala) at her side. Sure, she’s a witch, but what Justine doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Waldemar comes in and she freaks once again. Uswika explains the family history and plays the sympathy card by telling her that Waldemar is very ill. Justine soon finds out how ill he is when she sees his transformation out of her bedroom window. It’s takes a while to sink in, but eventually she comes to trust Waldemar, and that’s a good thing since the family of the sleaze balls that he killed are coming for blood. And fear not, its blood they get, only it’s not Justine’s or Waldy’s, it Uswika’s and his lowly leprous friend. With nothing to keep him in own, he does what any guy would do, follow the chickie to London. I know there’s a lot going on and we haven’t even gotten back to Dr. Jekyll yet, but don’t worry, he’s coming back with a vengeance.
Once in London, Justine goes to see Dr. Jekyll, explaining Waldemar’s predicament. It just so happens that Jekyll has a plan. It doesn’t sound like a good one, but basically, he and his beautiful assistant, Sandra (Mirta Miller of Count Dracula’s Great Love), wants to inject Waldemar with a serum that will turn him into Mr. Hyde. Then, on the next full moon, the Hyde personality will kill El Hombre Lobo’s personality, seriously? I thought he was a Doctor, not a Quack! Wait, I jumped the gun, he has an antidote for the “Hyde Syndrome” and he can fix that problem. OK, now I’m on board with this plan. But things don’t go smooth when Waldemar turns into a sadistic and murderous bastard with Lycanthropy to boot.
Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf is a fun film. Beautifully shot and directed by Naschy pal Leon Kilmovsky, who brought us so many awesome Spanish horrors. The sets are gorgeous, especially Waldemar’s Castle and the Attic, and the film moves nicely. If there is anything I would have wanted more of, it’s Dr. Jekyll. Jack Taylor is an interesting actor and his Jekyll leaves you curious about just what he would be like transformed. Shirley Corrigan is drop dead ridiculous as Justine and rivals Barbara Steele in perfection in the Candelabrum scene. Naschy is at his best as always. It seems like he really wanted to throw a curve ball at the audience and give them something different, rather than simply a monster mash, and that alone is worth notice.
Always deeper than one would expect, Naschy’s films have deeper stories going on beneath the blood and boobs. It’s an interesting twist giving Naschy the serum, because it gives him a chance to play with themes, the “Beast-Man vs. the “Man-Beast”. What would a man be like if his primal inhibitions are unleashed with the temperament of a wild animal? These questions are only hinted at, but for the viewer asking, it’s a rich subtext. Not the best of the Naschy/Klimovsky offerings but at least they strive to surprise and entertain their audience rather than just collect a paycheck. That alone is worth the rental.
If you love the grind-house horror era, and you're up for a challenge, then try this quiz. It's not easy but I think you'll enjoy it. Please leave a comment posting your score.
Sexual Daydreams: The Devil's Nightmare (1971) http://ow.ly/cwY0z
Monster Mash: Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman AKA Werewolf Shadow (1971) http://ow.ly/cwXVw