Things I Read Off the Screen in Son of Dr. Jekyll

Part of my See Reptilicus and Die mission to see every movie shown in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford. SON OF DR JEKYLL is a mostly-respectable B-movie with Louis Hayward in, unusually, a triple or maybe quadruple role, as Edward Jekyll, son of Jekyll-Hyde, as the transformed monstrous version, and as both his fathers (although they’re so fleetingly glimpsed it’s hard to be sure if we see both of them…)

Although set mostly in 1890, the movie features anachronistic newspapers with paparazzi-style photographs. This press persecution drives poor Jekyll towards nervous collapse (a somewhat uncomfortable echo of Hayward’s real mental state) as he tries to recreate his illustrious father’s experiments. A minor character here is named Rathbone, and Basil R in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is clearly a big influence here.

Mustn’t… black… out!

Disappointingly, Jekyll transforms only momentarily, and sleeps through the whole experience. A shame, since otherwise the plot produces some intrigue, but the marked lack of rampaging subhuman fiends rather lets the wind out of it. The script is by turns respectful of Stevenson’s original (although RLS doesn’t merit a screen credit, alas) and flippantly unfaithful: apart from giving Hyde a wife and child, the movie continues the adventures of Jekyll’s friends Utterson and Lanyon, but makes Lanyon into a villain, rather cheekily. Alexander Knox, dependably stolid, plays this role. National pride requires me to remark that Knox moved to Longniddry, just outside Edinburgh, late in his life.

Hayward goes wayward! A variation on the coloured makeup/coloured filters technique used in Mamoulian’s 1932 film allows the transformation to occur while the actor is in motion, although he loses consciousness midway. Mr Hyde sleeps through his own movie.

Screenwriter Jack Pollexfen wrote or co-wrote several mad scientist films, most of them worse than this — THE NEANDERTHAL MAN is astonishingly poor. But Edgar Ulmer’s THE MAN FROM PLANET X and DAUGHTER OF DR JEKYLL have their charm.

We watched this because Fiona was tired. It was this or HOUSE OF HORRORS, also featured in the Gifford. “I think I’m too weary to cope with Rondo Hatton’s face,” Fiona said. “Well, Louis Hayward’s face might be even more tiring,” I said thoughtfully, “It’s always moving about. Not like Rondo’s. Which is always just where you need it.”

22 Responses to “Things I Read Off the Screen in Son of Dr. Jekyll”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    Did you know Noel Coward allegedly wrote ‘Mad About the Boy’ in honour of his fling with Louis Hayward? One hopes Louis was in Dr Jekyll mode at the time.

  2. I thought it was supposed to be about Ty Power?

  3. david wingrove Says:

    Not sure if Noel notched him up as well…quite possible, but he and Louis Hayward were supposedly quite an item!

  4. I’m crazy about Louis Hayward — especially in Ulmer’s Ruthless and Lang’s House By the River.

  5. Noel and Ty both tended to work their way through the whole chorus, didn’t they? So it would seem likely they might meet up that way.

    Wayward Hayward is at his most awesome as the bad Louis in Whale’s The Man in the Iron Mask. But he’s great in the Ulmer and Lang films, and adds a sardonic edge to his heroic role in Clair’s And Then There Were None. It really helps that we don’t trust him…

  6. And then of course there’s his rakish cad in LADIES IN RETIREMENT, where he co-stars alongside his then-wife, Ida Lupino. Pretty good performances all around in this one.

  7. Judy Dean Says:

    Rather intrigued by the notion that Tyrone Power inspired Mad About The Boy. He would have been in his teens in 1932 when the song first featured in Coward’s review Words and Music, but I suppose it’s possible Coward met him in the US around that time, as Power was part of a showbiz family.

    More inclined to go for Louis Hayward who was a regular companion in the early thirties, and referred to in Coward’s letters as ‘Sugar’. In Jan ’35 he writes to his mother from NY: “Sugar has made the most enormous personal success and is inundated with with film offers. He is signing with Metro Goldwyn and getting $10,000 for his first picture, $15,000 for the next and so on. It really is lovely for him and we are all very glad.”

  8. Delightful. Poor Hayward was messed up by the war. And I’m guessing Ida, a little unstable herself, wasn’t best able to cope with him. And i’m not quite sure what kind of an arrangement that marriage was, anyway…

    Ladies in Retirement is indeed another fine one: there IS something of the cad about the boy.

  9. Peter Cushing’s autobiography has pics of him schmoozing chez Ida and Louis.

  10. Superb scene. “One of the few British films with an epic sensibility,” says comedian Paul Merton, who had it played at his wedding.

  11. Christopher Says:

    I picked up the double Hayward Pirate dvd for 3 bucks awhile back at Big Lots.. with Fortunes of Captain Blood and Captain Pirate..Yeah when It gets real late and I gotta see something,I normally dig around for things like this,90 mins and under..preferably 68 mins..Last night it was a dvd-r of The House Of Rothschild with Arliss and Karloff..tonight maybe The Monster Of Piedras Blancas

  12. Captain Pirate is the most hilariously generic title ever. Why not do Doctor Scientist and Bugsy Gangster as well? The Ulmer Pirates of Capri is the only hayward buccaneer movie I own.

  13. Ooh, the Monster of Piedras Blancas. A bald menacing sea creature with flamboyantly flared nostrils toting a disembodied head, much creepier and more grotesque than the Black Lagoon gill-man. Haven’t seen it since I was a kid, wondering if it’s in Gifford’s book?

  14. Guy, wasn’t that one featured regularly on “Sir Graves Ghastly”? If it wasn’t, it certainly seems like it would have been.

  15. I’m pretty sure you’re right Kevin. I need to revisit some of those films, I’d probably find them far more satisfying than any of the fare being produced these days, in large part because horror films in the classic sense seem so much more effective in black and white. I was talking with a friend earlier this evening about the Beatles’ first film, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, part of its magic comes from it being so, imagine what a fiasco it would’ve been had Turner colorized it. The Horror.

  16. It’s a shame more films aren’t made in black-and-white; the last one I recall was The Man Who Wasn’t There, and it would have been far less effective in color, just as A Hard Day’s Night would have been. Oh, and I believe Monster of Piedras Blancas was in Gifford’s book…I had that one back in the ’70’s and seem to remember a MOPB still in it, somewhere.

  17. No, there’s nothing about MOPB in there, unless it has another title. Sounds intriguing!

    The most recent Hollywood movie in b&w I can think of is Soderbergh’s The Good German, which flopped. Soderbergh, a pretty good cameraman who shoots his own movies these days, wasn’t up to the challenge of b&w in my view, especially since he was trying to match the look of 40s films.

  18. Coppola’s TETRO is out in UK cinemas this month and has very nice b&w cinematography plus some P&P-inspired dance interludes in colour.

  19. I really ought to try and see that, if the Film Fest doesn’t get in the way. From reports, it sounds intriguing but I am unable to guess whether I’ll love it or hate it.

  20. I liked it a lot but not as much as YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH.

  21. I’ve only caught fragments of that one, but it did seem intriguing. Coppola never quite decided what kind of filmmaker he was, it seems, which needn’t have mattered but it seemed to matter to HIM…

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