Monday, September 5, 2011
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1941)
(August 1941, U.S.)
One of the great disadvantages of watching three versions of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE in a row and having never read the original work by Robert Louis Stevenson is that you can never be totally sure of the author's original intention for the characteristics of Mr. Hyde. Was he meant to be a physically grotesque monster as portrayed in some film versions or was the physical transformation meant to be just subtle enough to make its philosophical point of man's inner conflict of good versus evil? Well, it's the latter point that Spencer Tracy expresses as Mr. Hyde. The physical tranformation in this 1941 version are actually no more than thicker hair and eyebrows, bigger eyes and a wider grin.
It's Spencer Tracy, though, that truly attracts one to this version of the story. He's a legendary actor that brings a strong sense of drama to the roles that call for it, and that dramatic passion comes through as Dr. Henry Jekyll. And while not particularly frightening as Mr. Hyde, that same passion comes through when his evil side is revealed and he murders his victims, dance hall girl Ivy and his would-be father in-law when provoked by rage. While Ingrid Bergman is suitably cast as Ivy, it's a role that could just as easily be as good or as bad as anything else she's done. In other words, it's NOT CASABLANCA! Lana Turner as Jekyll's fiance is, frankly, quite forgettable.
Now I have to give a director like Victor Flemming tremendous credit here. After having directed both THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND (both released in 1939), you'd think he'd have taken a long hiatus just to recover from that kind of film making stress. Instead, he gives us a very credible film version of a great literary classic. It's an understandably light-hearted film, even for it's scary premise. This, however, is far from being a horror film. In fact, given a few very mild edits, it could almost pass for a family film...almost.
Well, I have to say that after three versions in a row of this film, I'm quite jekyll'd out of my hyde!
(Okay, that was bad. Sorry.)
Favorite line or dialogue:
Dinner Guest: "But, but, but aren't you a bit presumptuous in assuming that there's evil in all men?"
Dr. Jekyll: "Oh, but isn't that true? Wouldn't we be hypocrites if we didn't admit that? After all, we've all had thoughts that we, uh, didn't want published or shouted out loud and we certainly have had desires that are not confined to a drawing room. Why, as Christians, we admit that man is created weal. That's a perfectly honest problem. Why don't we face it?"