Sunday, 14 April 2013

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Adopting a virtually identical plot to the 1931 version (review here) there are a few differences in the 1941 remake that are worth noting. Spencer Tracy's Hyde bears a more realistic appearance and comes across as a much calmer but calculating individual, speaking in a lower rasp than Frederic March’s raging animal. There’s a long, philosophically engaging conversation over dinner early on where upper-class friends discuss the ethics and validity of Jekyll’s theories (these were outlined in a university lecture in the Mamoulian film) and the film is less daring in a number of ways despite being made a decade later. Whilst it’s clear that Jekyll’s unsatisfied libido plays a large part in his motivation there is less emphasis on the sexuality that otherwise reveals itself to the doctor and viewers throughout (though the hallucination sequences touch on it in a fetishistic manner with Jekyll whipping horses that reveal themselves in a subsequent shot to be the two women in his life: village tart, Ivy, and Jekyll's fiancĂ©e, Beatrix). While I very much admire a large portion of Ingrid Bergman’s film acting I think her casting (the role specifically requested by her) was a small mistake - Ivy does come across as a little corny and her odd Swedish-Cockney accent just doesn’t work. Saying that, she does manage to convey dramatic feelings of fear as Hyde’s sadistic hold over her strengthens.
Hyde’s make-up is better but special effects had hardly progressed since the early thirties and the transformation itself is actually less impressive (on several occasions the 1931 film made innovative use of filters to give the doctor’s face the appearance of changing without dissolves or cutting). The movie as a whole comes across as a bigger budget effort, boasting fantastic cinematography, but falls into a shadow when comparing the brutality and sexiness of the 1931 equivalent. It is, however, an accomplished and enjoyable piece.

Packaged with the earlier film the Warner DVD is an excellent buy which you can‘t go far wrong with. 4:3 framed, Black and White picture quality is even better here, featuring remarkably sharp details, near perfect greyscaling and well balanced contrast levels with very little print damage. Sound is as clear as it should be. The only extra for this film is a trailer that’s included on the other side of the disc with the 1931 version.

1 comment:

  1. Bergman's casting is without question odd, but I like the film overall. I think I prefer it to the March version, but then I am a big fan of Tracy.


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