Honeymooners seldom spend nuptual nights in some backwater burb in Hungary and with good reason. Newly-wed Justine (Shirley Corrigan) and her rich husband Imre (Luis Induni) are only five minutes into visiting the land of his birth, exploring the graves of his murdered parents (how romantic!), when he is killed and she is almost gang raped by bandits. Luckily, brawny, broody Count Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy a.k.a. Jacinto Molina Alvarez) happens along to save her. As all long-time fans of the Daninsky series know, our hero harbours a tragic secret: a full moon transforms him from mild-mannered muscle man into - madre de dios! - El Hombre Lobo! That’s werewolf to you, bub. With torch-brandishing peasant folk hot on their heels, Justine brings Waldemar back home to Swinging London where she enlists her ex-boyfriend Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor) to concoct a possible cure. Henry decides to use his grandfather’s old formula, but thanks to the meddling of his sultry but sinister assistant Sandra (Mirta Miller), poor Waldemar morphs into Mister Hyde who goes on a shag-then-kill crazy rampage across Soho.
Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy fell in love with the genre, and the werewolf in particular, after his youthful viewing of the Universal classic Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man (1943). After a few false starts, the actor-screenwriter really hit his groove with Werewolf Shadow (1971), the fifth film in the Waldemar Daninsky series which was an international hit and kickstarted the Latin horror boom, prompting this delirious reunion with director Leon Klimovsky. Klimovsky could be hit or miss, but at their best his horror films exude a wonderfully dreamy, erotic and romantic atmosphere. So it proves with Dr. Jekyll versus the Werewolf which is evocatively lit and shot and includes some arresting sequences, notably a great scene where Waldemar “goes wolf” at a disco surrounded by swingers and sex kittens gyrating wildly amidst some nifty strobe lighting, stop-frame photography and subliminal shots of the full moon. All set to pounding psychedelic rock. Groovy.
There are the occasional - and given this genre, inevitable - lapses into incoherence (e.g. Henry Jekyll’s plan makes no sense and what the heck happened to Imre’s parents?) while some subplots veer towards the hysterical camp of Latin soap operas, heightened by Mirta Miller’s vampy performance. Choice dialogue: “Remember, Henry. Deepest love can turn into deepest hate.” But for the most part, Naschy crafts a poetic, sensitive screenplay rife with allusions to gothic literature (Justine is possibly named after the sadomasochistic heroine created by the Marquis De Sade, given she ends up on a torture rack) and history (a witch named Usvika Bathory (Elsa Zabala), after famed mass murderess Countess Elizabeth Bathory) and which upholds his sympathetic attitude towards tortured and tragic monsters. Naschy’s monsters are quite often kind, generous, loving and even heroic whilst he extends the latent hysteria of those Transylvanian peasants found in the Universal films into realms of outright bigotry and intolerance.
Having said that, Dr. Jekyll versus the Werewolf is not quite as ambitious as the star’s major works: Inquisition (1976) and The Return of the Wolf Man (1980) a.k.a. The Craving and was seemingly conceived to play more as a lively romp. It does give viewers two Naschy’s for their buck. Proving he could do much more besides growl or furrow his brow, Naschy makes a memorable Mister Hyde: a smirking, pale-skinned, golden eyed sex maniac in a Beatle wig. It is hugely amusing to watch him strut past the sleazy sex shops of Soho, twirling his silver cane and swishing his satin-lined cape. Shirley Corrigan gives an equally engaging performance. The actress was a Euro-horror regular throughout the Seventies, appearing in such notable films as Devil’s Nightmare (1971) and Crimes of the Black Cat (1972) although she had the occasional “serious” role as in Massacre in Rome (1974) opposite Richard Burton and Marcello Mastroianni, played the title heroine in bawdy sex romp Around the World with Fanny Hill (1974), and appeared in a few Hong Kong kung fu flicks including the truly loopy Little Godfather (1974) with its infamous exploding dog. Evidently, Ms. Corrigan was as lovely on the inside as out, given she spent five years in Calcutta helping children with cerebral palsy alongside Mother Teresa and still works with children in South London today.
Trash film fans may be slightly disappointed that Mondo Macabro’s otherwise luminous region two DVD features the “clothed version” of the film. Hence the werewolf attacks on a sexy nurse inside an elevator and a sexy streetwalker (Lucy Tiller) in Soho are shorn of nudity, but the denouement is charmingly eerie and romantic and by further recompense, the disc includes a twenty minute interview with Paul Naschy himself. Viva El Hombre Lobo!