All Day Entertainment presents
Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957)
"Jacob is right. He knows what to do. You've got to get a stake and drive it through my heart, and bury me beside my father. Well, do it! Do I have to kill myself? If you love me, please kill me!"- Janet Smith (Gloria Talbott)
Stars: John Agar, Gloria Talbott
Other Stars: Arthur Shields
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Manufacturer: Complete Post DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Violence, horror, suicide
Run Time: 01h:09m:43s
Release Date: 2000-06-06
DVD ReviewAll Day Entertainment gives us another very interesting "movie that fell through the cracks" in this DVD. This third volume in the series of the "Edgar G. Ulmer collection" features the 1957 horror B-film, Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. As is the case so often with the offspring of the classic horror film creatures, the horror here has little to do with that of the original versions.
Janet Smith (Gloria Talbott) plays a young woman just turned 21 who returns to the home of her guardian, Dr. Lomas, to announce her engagement to a young man, George (John Agar). When she does so, Dr. Lomas discloses that her father was the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll. When mysterious murders begin to occur, with the victims being attacked by an animal, suspicion falls upon Janet,who comes to believe that she too is afflicted with the transformationaltendencies of her father. Or is it her father, risen from the grave? The screenplay by producer Jack Pollexfen is fairly predictable (though it seems to confuse Mr. Hyde with a werewolf), but Ulmer directs with great panache and the black-and-white visuals are always striking. Ulmer had worked with the great german Expressionists during the silent period (he even helped with the production design for Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). His mastery of light and shadow is well-displayed in this little picture.
The pace is very brisk, since the film lasts just over an hour. We see from the outset that Ulmer isn't taking this terribly seriously when the narrator in the opening states that "Mr. Hyde will never prowl the night again", and the silhouetted Jekyll turns to the camera as Hyde and asks, "Are you sure?"This moment is incredibly over the top, and helps set the stage nicely. The horror tends to be implied rather than explicit, and is all the more effective for this reason. The film really is a throwback to the atmospheric Universal horror films of the 1930's (complete with the obligatory torch-bearing mob of villagers), which is appropriate, since Ulmer made one of the great ones, the 1934 Karloff/Lugosi vehicle The Black Cat. The low budget primarily shows in the special effects department; the mansion is obviously a model, and the climactic Hyde transformation is done through means of cuts away and back to the face.
Agar is earnest as the young hero, if a bit wooden. Part of the problem, as he acknowledges in the interviews, is that he had just gotten free of his contract with universal where he made nothing but big-budget B movies such asTarantula and The Mole People. Ultimately, this turned out tobe a bad career move because he ended up in low-budget B movies such as this one. Agar acknowledges that he probably didn't put everything into this performance. Talbott is credible though hysterical as the title character. She effectively communicates her despair in learning that she may be some kind of homicidal maniac. It helps the poignancy of her performance that she's not terribly attractive.
The film certainly isn't any sort of great achievement, but it is an entertaining little piece that is brought off with style and atmosphere (thanks in no small part to the use of a great many fog machines). I very much look forward to the future volumes in this series, since I quite enjoyed both this one and volume 2(Bluebeard).
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: There's nothing quite as beautiful as a gorgeous black-and-white print and this disc provides a superb example. The image is startlingly clear and undamaged. There are a few speckles under the main titles, but otherwise the source (a fine-grain positive print) seems to be nearly pristine. The blacks are terrific, and we get an enormous range of shades of grey. Whites are stark without being blooming; the contrast levels are set just right. I didn't see any moire or distortion. The picture probably could have benefitted from an anamorphic transfer, but that's really just about the only shortcoming.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Unfortunately, the audio doesn't measure up to the spectacular video transfer. The sound, especially at the opening, tends to be noisy and crackly. The original mono sound is presented in DD 1.0. Obviously, there is a fairly limited range to the audio given the extremely low budgets that Ulmer had to work with and the technology of the time. The sound overall is adequate for the film but certainly nothing to write home about.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Isolated Music Score with remote access
- Photo archive
The disc also includes a theatrical trailer, which is in quite nice condition. We also get an isolated score, which is rather surprising since we're not dealing with a big name in film music here. The music is effective in its own right, if not terribly memorable. The same crackly audio plagues the isolated score, which rather limits its appeal. The lack of subtitles is annoying.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsThe restrained horror and suspense, which only suggests rather than brazenly displays the mayhem, makes for a very effective film. The print is beautiful,and the transfer quite good indeed, although the audio is a bit on the noisy side.
Mark Zimmer 2000-06-08