The Son of Dr. Jekyll (1951)

My first thought when I saw the opening of this movie was that The Son of Dr. Jekyll must have been the sequel to a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Louis Hayward.

Well, that isn’t the case.

Nor does Columbia Pictures appear to have made such a film without Hayward, prior to releasing this film.

I suppose by the end, it does become obvious: after the dramatic opening scene in which the original Hyde is hunted down by a crowd and falls to his death, the same set reappears midway through the film, and the climax parallels what we saw in the very beginning.  However, with three famous movie versions of the story prior to the release of this sequel without an original, making a film about Jekyll’s son did help distinguish this film from its predecessors.

While cashing in on them at the same time.


Now there is a lot of room here for a debate about whether this classic story can be labeled as Science Fiction or not, even though it does — at least on the surface — revolve around a scientist and his medical experiments.  Certainly, the story has been reinterpreted over the years, in Fruedian terms, as drug addiction, or as a Darwinian return to the bestial (a notion carried to its extreme and reinterpreted in Altered States).   In the case of Anthony Perkins in Edge of Sanity (1989) we are even left with the question of whether the drug causing his transformation is just crack cocaine.

The Son of Dr. Jekyll is one of the least science fictional versions of the story that I’ve seen, although it doesn’t entirely get away from that more or less scientific premise.  Dr. Jekyll’s son Edward does transform into Hyde in the film, thanks to his father’s formula.

But only once.

Instead, Edward spends most of the film suspected of committing terrible crimes as Hyde, while he tries to unravel the truth of what happened — and why his father’s formula did not transform him when he tried to repeat the experiment.

All while trying to convince people that his father — even as Hyde — wasn’t a monster.

Ultimately, The Son of Dr. Jekyll is more of a mystery thriller than a horror film, with Edward pursued while he seeks out the truth, discovering unexpected secrets, false leads and even a few traps left by the real killer.

Well, it’s different.

You can see that they were trying to copy the black and white look of the Universal Horror films and the period settings look quite good.  I find the opening and the climax a bit surprising as it is larger and more dramatic than I would have expected from a Columbia Picture –particularly when you remember that both scenes involve both generous amounts of fire (live on set) and a few dangerous stunts.  After all, Columbia made the cheapest and least impressive films of any of the major studios.

And the unexpected result of all this is that it works reasonably well.  The Son of Dr. Jekyll may not exactly be the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story we expect, but it does offer a decent little mystery thriller, even if it does let us in on the secret far too early.

As a horror film, however…


It makes a pretty good mystery thriller.

So I’m afraid we’ll have to file this one under “pleasant and good enough for a rainy night.”  It isn’t a classic — like the three movie versions before it — but it has a lot of charm, an interesting not-quite-Dr. Jekyll, and even throws in a transformation scene (which appears to use that colored makeup and changing the lighting trick that worked so well in the Frederick March version).

But you’ll be fine as long as you don’t expect a great classic…



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



And A Short Visit with Willis O’Brien…

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