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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Fredric March , Miriam Hopkins , Rouben Mamoulian    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Fredric March won an Oscar® for playing the protagonist (and antagonist) of Robert Louis Stevenson's story. Dr. Henry Jekyll is an honorable man of science, albeit frustrated at the enforced celibacy of a delayed wedding date. Hyde is the fearsome creature he turns into after drinking a potion, and Hyde's appetites (mostly expressed with Miriam Hopkins's Cockney dance-hall wench) are decidedly unrestrained. March's performance is pretty theatrical, but it's fun to watch; his Hyde twitches and squawks and lopes around like an ape in a tuxedo. Rouben Mamoulian's direction has plenty of the brio of early-thirties Hollywood, and the transformations from Jekyll to Hyde are ingenious for the time. This film followed Dracula and Frankenstein into theaters by a few months, and it stands well with those horror classics--and it's a darn sight more fun (and much more down and dirty) than the 1941 MGM version of Stevenson's tale. --Robert Horton

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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars for the 1932 Version Feb. 8 2004
This is a two-sided DVD that contains two versions of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic. As many other reviewers here have said, the 1932 Frederick March version is far superior to the 1941 Spencer Tracy version. The older version, directed by a 34-year-old Rouben Mamoulian, is a masterpiece and part of movie history. The later version, directed by Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming, seems like an uninspired copy of the earlier one. Frederick March understood the role and seemed to revel in it. But, oddly, while he overacts a bit as Jeykyll, he seems totally believable as the monstrous Hyde. Tracy seemed uncomfortable with both personalities, playing Jekyll as too much of a saint and Hyde as too much of a leering sadist. March conveys the personality of Hyde as joyfully enervated by the full release of Jeykll's baser instincts. His Hyde has fun with his own badness. Tracy's just drowns in it.
The special effects in the older version are also superior, and there is lyrical Freudian symbolism in the sets, statues, paintings, etc, that really adds to the drama and continually reminds us of Mamoulian's power as a visual director. The newer version attempts some symbolism (for example, the two whipped horses transform into the two leading ladies) but its symbolism is so heavy handed that it makes the earlier film seem profoundly subtle by comparison.
Even the makeup in the older version is superior. In the Tracy version, Mr. Hyde's appearance seems inconsistent from cut to cut within the same scene. And the use of a masked double for Tracy, even in non-stunt scenes in the London fog, is painfully obvious. You don't even need to pause the DVD to see it.
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Fredric March earned an Academy Award for his bifurcated performance in the titular roles of the 1931 version--arguably the best to date--of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, Robert Louis Stevenson's familiar tale of a scientist who uses chemistry to liberate his baser instincts and allow them free reign over his body and behavior. And the Oscar was certainly deserved, as March easily convinces the audience that he is two different and disparate men. As the academic Dr. Jekyll, March is prim and decorous, the epitome of Victorian English gentility. But as the mean and selfish Mr. Hyde, March really cuts it loose and chews the scenery. Part of the transformation can be attributed to the make-up, of course, which makes March look like a snaggletoothed hybrid of simian and Neanderthal. But the make-up alone would not suffice. It is March's brash delivery of dialogue, unusual gesticulations and posturing, and bizarre body language that really sells the unrestrained, vile nature of Jekyll's alter ego.
Another outstanding performance in the film is that of Miriam Hopkins. In the role of prostitute Ivy Pearson, both the object of Mr. Hyde's carnal desires and the victim of his sadistic abuse, the amply bosomed and nicely figured Ms. Hopkins can exude a lustful sexiness while simultaneously being personable enough to elicit genuine sympathy from the audience.
The direction and cinematography work is also outstanding and contributes greatly to the film's success. Director Rouben Mamoulian keeps the pacing brisk and the story tight, never allowing the audience an opportunity to become distracted or bored.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must have DVD Feb. 8 2004
The fact that you are reading this shows your interest in this film. I can tell you now that you should purchase this DVD as soon as you finish reading this. Not only do you get two films on one disc but there is an excellect commentary track as well as a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I find the 1932 version the better of the two. Not only are the special effects better but so are the acting and pacing. For example, early in the 1932 film Dr. Jekyll makes his ideas known in a dramatic speech to a group of university professors. The 1941 film has Dr. Jekyll making his comments over a dinner conversation, it doesn't hold the viewers interest as well as the older film. Also, the makeup of the 1932 film turns Mr. Hyde uglier after each transformation. This helps to emphasize his more horrible behavior as the film goes on. The makeup on the final transformation is so extreme that, according to the commentary, March had to be hospitalized in order to prevent his face from being scarred for life. The older film also makes good use of several scenes with split screens.
The best way to compare the films is to see them for yourself, so do yourself a favor and order it now.
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As one who never misses an opportunity to add a Spencer Tracy film to my collection, I must admit that I am a bit prejudice because of my view that he is, perhaps, the finest American actor of the 1940-1960 era. But, unlike the other reviewers I much preferred the Tracy version of the story. First, while some of the technical flaws of the Frederick March version may be due to film degradation, it is also clear that sound recording in the 1932 version was far more primitive, something you'll especially notice in scenes where there is movement across a large set. By 1941, not only had the sound recording improved substantially, but the visual aspect of film had also evolved.
But, my preference for the later Tracy version goes beyond that. To me the more subtle characterization of Hyde by Tracy captures the reality of the evil side of real people. March's transformation is excessive, more like one would expect from a horror movie, while Tracy seems to be saying that the average man is not grossly different at his best or worst, that it takes little to tip the scales. In particular, the final scene with Lana Turner, you know he is transforming from lover to murderer without ever seeing his face.
It's remarkable how very similar the scripts are for both versions, so I suggest watching them in chronological order. While I prefer the Tracy version, I appreciated the opportunity to see and compare the two. And, BTW, you will notice that it would seem more logical for the female leads in the Tracy version to be reversed, but both Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman turn in fine performances, as opposed to Miriam Hopkins (1932) whose performance is a bit over the top.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What I wanted
Love this so much, I was super pleased with the condition and the movie is what it should be! Very pleased
Published 9 months ago by Kristin D
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr Jekyll and me Hyde
I've only watched Dr Jekyll and mr Hyde so far. It was really good. Older movies are great. I like black and white. I got it really fast too.
Published 18 months ago by Rose
3.0 out of 5 stars Age Withers Classic
This review is of the l933 Rouben Mamoulian version with Frederick March. I was horrified to see that this DVD transfer is so botched. Read more
Published on April 21 2004 by Jery Tillotson
5.0 out of 5 stars March Version is Best; Hopkins Sizzles
Even though this does not have the wit of the James Whale/Universal horror films, it is still a great piece. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2004 by supremefiction
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Different Takes on Classic Story
I just finished watching these two old favorites on this dvd and I concur with the earlier comments. I've never seen the '32 version looking so gorgeous! Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2004 by Robert M. Fells
5.0 out of 5 stars dr. jekyll should go hyde
marvelous dvd with two great versions of the classic stevenson tale. certainly the best of any d-h version is the 1932 classic in which frederic march managed to win an oscar... Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2004
Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" is basically a Victorian morality tale, about the power and predisposition of mankind for either good or evil. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2004 by Nix Pix
5.0 out of 5 stars The 1932 Version Is A Pre-Code Delight
Wow. I was expecting something a little tamer, along the lines of the classic Universal horror shows that were being made in the early 1930's. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2004 by Yancy J. Berns
5.0 out of 5 stars WICKED!
I'm loving these terrific twofers WB Home Video's been putting out recently. This ties with their HOUSE OF WAX/MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM double feature as my favorite dvd release... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004 by "mbstimm"
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