Although there have always been certain aspects of lycanthopy within the story, this is the only "Jekyll and Hyde" movie in which Hyde is actually identified as a werewolf.
"Nobody has ever made good pictures faster or for less money," Peter Bogdanovich once wrote about Edgar G Ulmer. Having directed the 1934 classic "The Black Cat", Ulmer found himself exiled from the major studios after having an affair with the nephew of Carl Laemmle (founder of Universal Studios). He was forced to work on "Poverty Row" - directing B-movies quickly and on a shoestring budget. Undoubtably, he was among the most talented directors to do so. A number of his low-budget films are still regarded as cult classics today - most prominently "Detour" (1945) and "Ruthless" (1948).
"The Daughter of Dr Jekyll", like many of Ulmer's films, is relatively unknown. We begin with a narration explaining the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, referring to Hyde as "a human werewolf" (as opposed to another kind of werewolf?). A woman called Janet Smith visits her guardian at his rather spooky mansion, in order to celebrate her 21st birthday and introduce her fiance to him. She learns that she is the daughter of the infamous Dr Jekyll, and that she is the heiress to his entire estate. When she has terrible nightmares and strange things start happening, she begins to wonder if she has inherited the family curse ...
Throughout this movie, we are treated to some rather wonderful atmospheric visuals - which makes you wonder how Edgar G. Ulmer managed it all on the sort of budgets he was dealing with. The script, unfortunately, is quite weak in places, though the concept is quite interesting and the suspense is maintained throughout. The performances are also well above average for a B-movie of the time, especially considering the likely time restraints. It's no secret that Ulmer was regarded as being great at working with actors.
Ultimately, this is an above average B-movie with some truly exceptional sequences. Given the talent of the director, it could have been a heck of a lot more, but it's worth seeing anyway if only for the fact that it deserves more than its obscurity.
As I mentioned in the review, even the opening narration reveals to us this particular interpretation of Dr Jekyll as being "a human werewolf" - a peculiar term if ever I heard one!
When Dr Jekyll was killed, so says this movie, a stake was driven through his heart in order to stop him rising from the grave when the moon is full, thirsting for blood. Even so, any mysterious occurences or disappearances are blamed on "the monster Jekyll."
A book which is discovered in the movie defines werewolves as being the soul or spirit of a person, dead or living, which rises from their body by night in order to feast on blood. They can killed by a stake through the heart, or having the head cut off, or the heart torn out and the body burned.
I know what you're thinking - it does sound more like a vampire, doesn't it? It's true that there has always been a lot of folkloric crossover between vampires and werewolves, but this movie certainly seems more confused on the matter than most. The idea of spirit-wolves prowling around while the physical body sleeps does appear to have some roots in European folklore, however.
The early werewolf-attack scenes are very atmospheric and artfully handled - though it should be noted that no physical transformation actually takes place. Initially, it seems that this story has more to do with the psychological than the supernatural. We do, however, see some make-up in the initial shot of Mr Hyde at the beginning of the film, and we are even treated to a proper tranformation scene later - though minimal make-up is used.