It should come as no surprise that Hollywood is greedy and will do anything for a quick buck. Motion picture studios have always seen the potential profit in quickly thrown together sequels. In the past, film series would degenerate from top billed classics like Frankenstein or Dracula and diminish into such lesser releases as Ghost of Frankenstein (which featured a Frankenstein son) or Dracula’s Daughter. So, it was only a matter of time before Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would spawn some offspring.
The first of these forgotten flicks is 1951’s Son of Dr. Jekyll. From the very first few frames, our back story has already been altered. We know that Dr. Jekyll never married his fiancée before Mr. Hyde consumed him, leading to his ultimate battle with the police and his death. However, Columbia Pictures decided to twist the background story a little. After all, ten years had gone by since the last version of Jekyll and Hyde. Some sources consider Son of Dr. Jekyll to be a direct sequel to the Spencer Tracy version but with the very obvious plot changes, those claims immediately come into doubt. Here, Dr. Jekyll did marry a woman and they had a son named Edward. Our opening scene finds Hyde pursued by the ever present crowd of torch-bearing townsfolk after he has murdered his wife. Chasing him back to his original home, it is set on fire. After he takes the potion to revert back to Dr. Jekyll, he falls to his doom as flames surround him. Upon his death, he finally changes back to Dr. Jekyll. Dr. Curtis Lanyon (Alexander Knox) and Sir John Utterson (Lester Matthews), both characters from the original novel, take the orphaned son and Utterson agrees to raise him as his own. We flash forward thirty years and Edward Jekyll is engaged to Utterson’s niece, Lynn (Jody Lawrence). He is expelled from the Royal Academy of Science and, upon discovering the truth of his past, takes up residence in his father’s mansion. Edward begins to work on his father’s experiments to prove his father was not insane. However, the newspapers begin to portray him as unbalanced. Soon, a Hyde-like character begins to kill. But has Edward really become Hyde or is there more to the story?
What follows is a familiar storyline where all is not as it appears. We even see the return of the clichéd mad mob towards the end. The ultimate reveal proves to be disappointing. I did enjoy Louis Hayward’s performance as Edward Jekyll, which is just about the best thing this movie has to offer. It’s visually entertaining and not a bad way to spend 80 minutes. However, it really isn’t horrifying and is relatively slow. The image of Hyde is done with makeup and a cheap pair of fangs, barely getting any screen time. The result comes off rather cheap looking. And let’s be honest, just how did his father’s lab and manuscript survive the first fire? Son of Dr. Jekyll is worth checking out once as long as you don’t pay too much. However, you’ll have a hard time finding it as it’s not on YouTube or DVD but I wouldn’t put it high on the list.
Script writer Jack Pollexfan went on to write and produce another sequel in 1957 titled The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. Gloria Talbott (The Cyclops and I Married A Monster From Outer Space) headlines our cast as Janet Smith and John Agar (Revenge of the Creature and The Mole People) is her fiancé George Hastings. Janet returns home on her 21st birthday only to discover that her father was the infamous Dr. Jekyll. As events transpire, she believes she may have inherited a split personality as a result of his experiments. Murder victims begin to pile up and Janet is led to believe she is guilty. However, and here’s a shock for you, not all is at it appears to be. Pollexfan really just recycled the punch line of his previous script.
In some ways, this movie has more going for it than Son of Dr. Jekyll. First, the presence of John Agar immediately makes it more enjoyable right out of the gate. Secondly, director Edgar G. Ulmer executes some great visuals in the dream sequences, which is not surprising consider what he did six years earlier in the underrated classic The Man From Planet X. He obviously has a thing for fog in his movies. However, other scenes, including exterior shots of the mansion (which look to be miniatures in dry ice) really make the film look cheaper than it should. Our background story is changed around a little once again and the mansion is now located in the foggy countryside. The absence of London is clearly felt but I’m not sure if it was for budgetary reasons or just a change of pace. And I’m not quite sure why we had mentions of Jekyll reincarnated as a werewolf.
By 1957, horror movies were getting a little more sexed up and with Gloria Talbott in the lead, there are plenty of opportunities to show off her shapely figure. John Agar is always fun to watch but what was up with the striped jacket? This one is quite hard to find as well and appears to only be available through Amazon Video but at least you can check out the trailer on YouTube as well as a prolonged clip of the second nightmare sequence. It’s a fun little flick for what it offers but don’t spend too much time tracking it down.
Next time, we go back to the original storyline and enter the world of Hammer Horror to see what Christopher Lee does with a slightly different take on the conversion of Jekyll into Hyde.