Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

I trust the book is better than this movie.

Robert Louis Stevenson published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886.

Several film and television versions of his horror novel have followed including a 2016 effort with Gianni Capaldi and Shawn Paul Piccinino.

The premise of director Victor Fleming's 1941 feature is interesting.

Dr. Henry Jekyll is working on a potion that will eliminate the evil in people and magnify the good.

The British medical community isn't impressed with his work. "Your ideas are not normal," argues Sir Charles Emery (Donald Crisp), father of his better half. Jekyll contends his peers side with the status quo because it what keeps them making money.

"Sometimes we have to gamble," he explains.

Jekyll decides to try the elixir on himself. Instead of being a better person, Jekyll turns into a nasty piece of work. "Can this be evil?" he asks after chugging back his first serving of his concoction. It's about the best scene featuring Jekyll's bad side.

He forgets about his soon-to-be wife, Beatrix Emery (Lana Turner), and sets his sights on good-time tavern worker Ivy Peterson (Ingrid Bergman). Ivy tried to seduce the much nicer Dr. Jekyll after he came to her rescue during a late-night assault. He, mostly, rebuffed her advances then. With this jolt of evil running through his veins, he wants her. His physical transformation when he becomes Mr. Hyde means Ivy doesn't know the two men are, in fact, the same.

Hyde is terribly abusive, keeping her confined to their love nest and verbally and physically abusing her. As Jekyll keeps downing his potent brew, his behaviour worsens and, eventually, he loses control as to when he'll be transformed.

This film works for me for about the first hour. But once Hyde appears, time slows and this film drags. We don't see Jekyll struggling with his decision to opt for evil.

Sitting through this film was a tough go. It took too much work to get scared.

RATING: 4/10

FUN FACTS: The film was nominated for three Academy Awards for cinematography, editing and musical score.

Peter Godfrey, who appears as Dr. Jekyll's butler, only appeared in 13 films between 1933 and 1948. He spent more time directing feature films and television episodes. One of his big screen credits is that hagen girl
with Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan.

Victor Fleming also directed Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

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