The opening scene of this movie is horrific, and not because it is a horror film. It is simply shoddy acting, and that is being kind. Also, without the viewer knowing it, director Edgar G. Ulmar actually spoiled the whole movie. Why he would do so is unknown, perhaps to create an atmosphere of dread or suspense or to simply let the audience know that they were about to watch a film having to do with Dr. Jekyll? In either case he failed abysmally as it was not frightening, thrilling or anything of the kind and everyone knew they were going to watch a movie about the literary character due to the title of the movie going into it.
Gloria Talbott stars as Janet who, with her fiancée George head back to her childhood home to see her guardian and let him know that they are intending to be married, and once there she finds out she is an heiress and is actually the owner of the estate and all the land that surrounds it. The next day, they find a hidden laboratory within one of the rooms in the house, which they discover Janet’s father used to use for his experiments. She soon tries to break off the wedding when she learns of her father, Dr. Jekyll, but George does not care as he loves her. Eventually though, people start turning up dead and Janet believes it is her doing the killing though George thinks she is innocent. With a little investigating, everything soon comes to a head in a battle for life and death.
Talbott is perfect in the role as she exudes that innocent and demure quality needed, and that wild-eyed wonderment at each revelation that is proffered to her. And while the actress is a great fit for the film, sometimes the script works against her a little as she is perhaps a little too accepting of each and every situation she is made aware of. But every great horror film needs its virginal maiden, one which viewers can empathize with and want to see come out on the winning side and if it had not been Talbott, it would have been somebody else.
John Agar rears his head as the male lead of the film, starring opposite Talbot. He does a good job with what he is given, but at times just seems like he is a piece of the furniture instead of an actor in the movie. Come the end of the film, he finally gets to do a little, which was good to see, but in all, it just seemed like a waste of his talents.
The film is appropriately dark. Even when in the family home, the atmosphere is eerie and filled with tension like something could happen at any second. The supporting cast also helps with that including Arthur Shields as Dr. Lomas who is both Janet’s guardian and our villain, and John Dierkes who plays the groundskeeper Jacob. The third protagonist of the film is the late Dr. Jekyll, who, while no longer among the living, is a central figure to the plot and story. His influence is felt throughout the film and permeates every bit of the movie, from character actions and motivations to the mood of the house itself.
Now while the film will never be considered a masterpiece, and it did have a few problems such as the script by Jack Pollexfen, the use of its actors, the opening sequence and a few other little tidbits, it was in the end, quite enjoyable. It does not overstay its welcome by being too long, nor does it bore the viewer as it moves along at a fairly good pace. It is a short, sweet, and decent little piece of horror that fits in nicely with the other monster movies of the time.
3.5 out of 5