Fuller of corn than Kansas, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll is sure to entertain fans of 50s-era schlock. It will also draw attention from aficionados of cult director Edgar G. Ulmer. Mr. Ulmer worked mostly on low-budget fare, including quite a lot of genre work. His reputation largely rests on two works, the marvelous Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi vehicle The Black Cat and the 1944 Bluebeard starring John Carradine. Ulmer works hard here and manages to make the result a lot artier than it would have been under a less inspired director. Still, its low-budget roots remain apparent.
A young woman returns to her deceased fathers home on her twenty-first birthday, bringing along her fiancée (John Agar!). Now that shes of age, her guardian reveals her secret past, which you can probably figure out if you examine the movies title long enough. Soon murders are occurring in the nearby woods, and the villagers are mumbling about the return of the family curse. Worse, our heroine wakes up covered with blood after each of the murders. Is she the killer?
You wont have much trouble figuring out the twist ending. Instead, the fun to be had emanates from the movies sheer goofiness. Here, if I can follow this, Mr. Hyde was a werewolf, albeit one brought on by Jekylls experiments. He emerged every month under the full moon. However, all the attributes assigned to this creature are vampiric in nature. They refer to him drinking blood, and he was supposedly dispatched with a wooden stake. None of this makes much sense, which only adds to our enjoyment. Moreover, the picture is brimming with florid dialog like the following: "I still shudder when I recall that face. Like some perverted mask of evil, out of a legend of horror!"
A product of the exceedingly diligent Allday Entertainment, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll is part of their Edgar G. Ulmer Collection. Allday has a reputation of meticulously searching out the finest materials available, so I doubt youll ever see this picture looking any better. Indeed, the interior scenes, mild speckling aside, look terrific. Again, its startling how good many of these old cheapo productions look on disc.
The exterior sequences, however, are another story. They generally look very soft and grainy. If Im correct in my assumptions, though, this might reflect a directorial choice on Ulmers part. In an effort to add atmosphere, the exterior scenes are extremely foggy. In order to enhance this aspect, I believe Ulmer might have employed a softer lens when shooting these.. Aside from that, the exteriors show signs of damage to the film stock. On the whole, though, the film looks pretty good.
The sound is generally crisp, albeit with small levels of hissing and static typical of low-budget films of this period.
We get a decent amount of bonus material here.
First is the films theatrical trailer, which looks quite good and is suitably bombastic, although it does sort of blow the films ending. (As does the movies poster!)
We also get a recently conducted ten-minute interview with John Agar. Mr. Agar looks and sounds sadly aged here, but gives an entertaining and self-deprecating rundown of his acting career. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Agar talks most about his early and more mainstream films. He also briefly chats about his marriage to Shirley Temple. However, Agar has always been a bit chary regarding his numerous sci-fi films (no wonder, he ended up working with Larry Buchanan, for Petes sake), and thus his soft peddling on this subject is unfortunate but predictable. Daughter of Dr. Jekyll itself is only glancingly referred to.
David Kalat, film historian and founder of Allday Entertainment (a company he basically started so that he could release his beloved Ulmer and Dr. Mabuse films), introduces another featurette entitled Daughter of Edgar Ulmer. Running close to twenty minutes, this is an interview with Arianne Ulmer Cipes, the directors daughter and the number one booster of his work. While I admire her familial loyality, I did find her remarks on Ulmers oeuvre to sometimes be a bit extravagant. This material will likely prove of interest more to hardcore film buffs than the casual viewer.
Next is a gallery of the films posters, lobby cards and stills. Most amusing are the newspaper ads for the picture with its double bill partner, Bert I. Gordons The Cyclops.
The weirdest extra is an isolated music track. In other words, you can watch the movie without the dialog, listening only to the music. What makes this particularly odd is that this type of thing is generally provided when a film boasts an especially well-known score. However, this picture didnt even have original music written for it. Instead, pieces of music were appropriated from other genre pictures. Aside from some very familiar sounding Theramin music, the savvy fan will recognize cues taken from Elmer Bernsteins score for Robot Monster!
Ken Begg, 3/12/2001