The Son of Dr Jekyll (1951)

Son_Of_DrJekyll_(1951)‘Legends don’t die – they have to be killed.’

A young scientist whose researches ‘border on witchcraft’ discovers that his father was the infamous Dr Henry Jekyll, who died 30 years earlier. Determined to clear his father’s name, he opens up the old family home and starts poking through his father’s laboratory and his papers…

Minor horror programmer from Columbia Studios that stars former swashbuckler and matinee idol Louis Hayward in the title role. The film opens with a flashback to the death of Jekyll Senior, as he’s pursued down a London Street by a torch-bearing mob who would probably have been more at home chasing Frankenstein’s Monster through the alps around Ingoldstadt. They’re after Hyde because he’s just killed his wife in a cheap boarding house, leaving their infant son behind. Strangely enough, I don’t recall Hyde being married in Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story, but I can imagine that the wedding reception was a lot of fun. The torches come in handy as they burn up Jekyll’s house and the mad scientist as well. Curiously, the whole Jekyll and Hyde situation seems common knowledge 30 years later when young Jekyll faces similar treatment by the public at large.

Although the film retains some level of credibility for the first half hour, the ridiculous contrivances pile up quickly after that, demanding a higher level of suspension of disbelief that the average viewer can hope to attain. A series of crimes and events combine to put young Hayward in the cross-hairs of both police inspector Paul Cavanagh and nasty newspaperman Gavin Muir, as well as the locals who seem ready to condemn with no real evidence at all. Actually, there’s some critique about the workings of the gutter press and mob rule here, but, not to worry, it’s buried pretty deep beneath the overall silliness.

Son Of Dr Jekyll (1951)

‘My god, it was you! You wrote the script!’

In production terms, we’re in definite B-movie territory with director Seymour Friedman (‘Counterspy Vs Scotland Yard’ (1950), ‘Khyber Patrol’ (1954)) and scriptwriter Jack Pollexfen, who, rather brilliantly, turned the same trick again with ‘Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957)!  Cavanagh and Muir were refugees from the Rathbone-Bruce ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series, and Lester Matthews was the hero of Lugosi-Karloff classic ‘The Raven’ (1935). Heroine Jody Lawrence was Marilyn Monroe’s’ foster-sister when they were in their teens.

Although it’s a fairly painless way to spend 78 minutes, it’s often rather slapdash and makes little effort to remain realistic. Young Jekyll is accused of attacking a young boy, arrested the same night, and finds himself in full court facing witnesses the next day! Wow. The wheels of justice sure moved fast in the old days.

One thought on “The Son of Dr Jekyll (1951)

  1. The Son of Dr. Jekyll – scifist 2.0

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