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on May 19, 2004
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. When appropriate, several shots are set up so that the audience literally sees the action from Fredric March's point of view--or at least the camera is skillfully manipulated to make it appear as such--and talented cinematographer Karl Struss is able to frame these shots in such a way that they are natural to the flow of the plot and never feel gimmicky or contrived.
Now, the DVD from Warner Home Video would be worth the retail price for the 1931 edition of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE alone. But this is a double feature, folks, and Warner gives the paying public a second good film for the price of one ticket--MGM's 1941 version of the classic horror story.
In the 1941 film, Spencer Tracy assumes the two titular roles, and the beautiful Ingrid Bergman takes over the part of the prostitute Ivy. Other than the change of cast and some filmic or narrative "cosmetic" differences, the plot remains intrinsically the same. This film's budget was much larger than the 1931 flick, though, and it also has big-name, high-profile stars in the major roles. Yet despite those assets, this film doesn't quite achieve the pinnacle of the first.
The film's major weakness is the palpable miscasting of Tracy and Bergman. Both are fine actors, but Tracy's emotional range and Bergman's general persona make each really unsuitable for the characters they portray. Tracy just isn't able to cut loose to the same degree as March, and he is therefore unable to create a Mr. Hyde that reads as the unequivocal polar opposite of his Dr. Jekyll. As for Ms. Bergman, she's just too classy--on screen and off--for any audience to totally accept her as a woman of ill repute. And while she's certainly as pretty as her predecessor in this role, Ms. Bergman's performing style emanates a sense of continence that makes her Ivy seem celibate, especially when compared to the lusty sensuality that radiates from Ms. Hopkins' characterization.
Still, the 1941 version is a pretty good flick in its own right, and it even has a few outstanding moments. One of the best is a dream sequence where Ivy and Dr. Jekyll's betrothed--played by Lana Turner, who probably would be more believable than Bergman in the Ivy role--are transformed into centaur-like horses, with Mr. Hyde riding on their backs and wildly flailing at them with a whip.
In addition to the two films, the Warner double-feature DVD also contains a few cool bonus features. With the better of the two films (i.e., the 1931 version), there is an optional audio track that offers a feature commentary with film historian Greg Mank. Also included on the disc is a classic Looney Tunes cartoon called HYDE AND HARE, in which Bugs Bunny crosses paths with Dr. Jekyll and, in more ways than one, experiences the effects of the good Doc's elixir.
All in all this is a great double-feature offered at a reasonable price, and lovers of great cinema or fans of the horror genre will undoubtedly be pleased with having this disc in their film collections.
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on November 6, 2002
This is arguably the best version of Jekyll & Hyde there is and ever will be! I liked the 1920 version with John Barrymore (I didn't care much for Spencer Tracy's 1941 portrayal), but Fredric March definitely takes the cake here, turning in a brilliantly over-the-top performance in the dual characters; especially as Mr. Hyde, where he is ruthless and menacing in sharp contrast to the comedic roles he was known for. It's hard to believe that March played BOTH characters; you have to look very closely, because otherwise you'll think it were two different actors; but as the main review said, March's performance is so good in this film, he more than deserved the Oscar he won for it in 1932!
On a rather humorous note, there's something I noticed in the film completely by accident: check out some of the facial shots of March in his Mr. Hyde makeup...the expressions he makes (especially when he cracks a smile through the bad teeth) make him look like Austin Powers! Did Mike Myers get the inspiration for Powers by watching this movie? It's possible...you be the judge!
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on February 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.
The earlier version is so technically dazzling, it's hard to believe it was filmed only a couple of years after the silent Lon Chaney classic, Phantom of the Opera. I've never seen an early 30's film that looked so crisp and sounded so good. And no review of this version should leave out the excellent and sexy performance of Miriam Hopkins. She's convincing as a love-starved hooker and even more convincing as the terrified victim of a depraved client. In many ways, her performance seems less theatrical, and therefore more contemporary, than March's.
The Greg Mank commentary on the 1932 version is entertaining and informative, in a gossipy as well as scholarly style. Through his commentary, you find out things about the film and crew that really do add to your insight and enjoyment of the film. There is no commentary on the 1941 version, but Mank does disciss it a little (in too forgiving a way, I think) near the close of the 1932 version. Overall, I think this is a great collector's DVD, and will be one of the most treasured in my collection.
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on January 28, 2004
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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on November 9, 2003
There's the silent 1920 version with John Barrymore, there's the lamentable 1941 version with Spencer Tracy (and an excellent Ingrid Bergman), and then there's Rouben Mamoulian's classic 1931 version which brought Fredric March an Oscar as Jekyll/Hyde. This, to me, is the best. Not only is March's Hyde a hideous monster but the carnality between Jekyll/Hyde and the Cockney bar wench Champagne Ivy (Miriam Hopkins) is more explicit. This was Pre-Code Hollywood. Rather faithful to Stevenson's story, the film is brilliantly cast and directed. The atmosphere of 1800's London is thick with Victorian attitudes on one end and soaked with sex and sin on the other. It is between these two worlds that Dr. Henry Jekyll finds himself torn after experimenting with mind (and personality) altering drugs that bring out the bestial Mr.Hyde. The transformation scenes are well done for 1931. London's tawdry side of town is where Hyde seeks out the lustful Ivy and takes her forcibly as his mistress. Jekyll had already met her while "slumming" with a friend. Her image stuck with him as her bare garter-clad leg dangled seductively in his mind while her voice purred, "You'll come back, won't you?" But it's Hyde who goes back and dooms the helpless Ivy to a life of hell. In one of the scarier moments, Hyde hisses at the terrified Ivy "I'll show you what horror is!" And proceeds to do so. March deserved the Oscar for his masterful portrayal of the dual personality that is Jekyll/Hyde and Hopkins is perfect as Ivy. Rose Hobart is Jekyll's wealthy fiancee and the rest of the cast is grand. The classic organ score adds the right creepiness and morbid tone for this beautiful b&w melodrama. A welcome addition to DVD and a collector's dream, 1931's "Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde" is a horror classic and not to be missed by afficianados.
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on February 5, 2000
This movie is absulutely a masterpiece. A great horror movie. Frederic March gives a stunning performance, I must say. When I first saw the Hyde character, I had to wonder if that was Frederic March behind all that make up. It's not that faithful to the R.L. Stevenson novel, but it still is a great story. It focuses quite a bit on the love/lust angle, but doesn't turn into a romance. This is a great movie all around, good acting, story, cinematography, (the first transformation from Jekyll to Hyde where the camera spins was a really big innovation becase the camera made alot of sound, so they put it in a soundproof thingy and it couldn't be moved.) and very imaginative; those few parts when you see the world through Jekyll's eyes is cool. Miriam Hopkins' portrayel of Ivy is great, she is really believable. One more thing. At the party scene, where Rose Something (forgot her last name) is wearing that dress, if you look behind them when they're going out in the garden, there's a woman wearing an identical dress. This is a great movie that is really great. I liked it and recommend it to anyone, no matter what genre you prefer. At times, March's performance almost moved me to tears. Excellent!
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on September 4, 2002
It's stirring enough for me, whether it moves Poole or not. Poole is as "impregnable as Gibraltar. Even Bach can't move" him.
But Poole isn't as unmoveable as all that. In the end he is the only one who can mourn for the fallen Jekyll.
I've watched this so many times this year and it's still interesting. Just last night I heard a line that I never heard before. "It's the things one can't do that always tempt me," Jekyll tells Lanyon early in the film. From the very beginning, then, we should be aware of his deep-rooted discontentment and longing for the forbidden. This is really the key line to the whole story. It took me six or more viewings to notice it. I hope, reading this, you'll notice it sooner.
This is really a good story, with a perfect cast and wonderful filming. Ivy particularly is very good at playing a scared, hysterical, or alluring woman as the script calls. She is much more realistic when with Hyde than Muriel ever is with Jekyll.
For example, Jekyll tells Muriel, "Now, my darling - chide me, mock me, hate me - but don't send me away!" And later on: "We shall go to Devon for our honeymoon. And live on love, and strawberries, and moonlight - endless moonlight!"
And Muriel always responds accordingly: "Yes, dahling, with all my heart!"
But Hyde and Ivy are a different story. They are much more natural together, even if Hyde is a beast - in that there are fewer melodramatic speeches and more real acting. Ivy has to act terrified in many different ways, while Muriel doesn't have to do much but sit and talk sweetly to her beloved Jekyll - although her devotion is touching.
I would say the best scene with Jekyll and Muriel is when he comes to set her free. Freddie did a wonderful job playing the tormented, distressed man who can't explain his reasons for letting her go. "Yes, Muriel, I was hanging out with another woman and I just choked her to death. So I think we'd better part ways, baby." He truly feels terrible for what he has done. He couldn't bear to hurt her so he tells her nothing. He has come so low he doesn't even dare to touch her. But she still loves him, and when he strides away Robert Browning style, she collapses to the piano with a dramatic clash of bass notes.
A bit about Hyde the beast. He is really gross and that's an understatement. He gets progressively worse as it goes along. For a long time I couldn't believe it was really him under that makeup, but now after having seen many of his movies, I no longer think that Humphrey Bogart dubbed Hyde's voice. If you listen carefully you can hear Fredric March's accents and inflections coming through, especially when he stops growling for a minute and talks almost like a normal person. I think the teeth were the strongest impediment to his speech - and to his kissing Ivy.
Lanyon is quite good as well. He seems to be sweet on Muriel. He calls her by her first name, is always there for dinner even if Jekyll is not, and has the general approval of Muriel's father because he is always punctual. And for some unknown reason, he turns up at the Carew's on Hyde's last night out. I like the scene when he gives Jekyll's lab-in-a-box to Hyde and watches bug-eyed as Hyde transforms back to Jekyll.
I should speak of the book here as well and the other version with Spencer Tracy. I have to say this is one example of a movie that is better than the book, for the very simple reason that there is more in the movie - more story, more depth - than there is in the book. The book is good, but the addition of the women in the movie makes the tragedy of the book twice as strong. As for the Spencer Tracy version, it's completely inferior, without any of the depth or artisticness of this earlier version. Ingrid Bergman may have played Ivy well, but she couldn't change the fact that Tracy was the lead, and I think the main problem lay in his being miscast. A priest he could be, yes. Katherine Hepburn's long-suffering husband, yes. But anything else - not really.
There is also a book called The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier about a scientist delving into the unknown with a drug and his best friend as a guinea-pig. Reading it lately I could see several similarities with the story of Jekyll and Hyde, as far as the chemical yuk itself was concerned and how the people ultimately reacted to it.
But back to the movie. It is more than a horror story - it's a tragedy of how a man so loved and respected for his kindness and devotion to his work can fall so low. It's not just about a monster, prowling around tossing little girls into rivers or turning vestal virgins into mummies. It's a story that is very real and moving, because it's full of strong characters to make Jekyll a very desparate character indeed. I can feel sympathy and pity for him even after all he has done. As he said in his confession-scene, "This I did not intend. I saw a light, but I did not see where it was leading. I have gone farther than man should go."
This is an excellent movie and you must see it....
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on April 17, 2002
This film without a doubt is the very best version of the many that have been made of the classic horror story by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Fredric March has the great distinction of being the only actor to win an academy award for best actor for a performanc ein a horror film.
I find this film a real viewing experience, from the superb cast ..Miriam Hopkins yet again proving what a truly wonderful actress she was especially in the scenes when she is literally a prisoner of Hyde's, through to the superb sets and period atmosphere. Although filmed entirely in Hollwood the film reeks with Victorian London atmosphere, from the costumns to the gas lamps, fog etc. I love the film for its look alone but the whole tragic story is brought vividly to life in March's towering potrayal of the dedicated Doctor who interfers in the creation of life. For the time the transformation scenes when he turns into Mr. Hyde are truly remarkable and the look and manner of My Hyde is very scary and quite confronting. March's version is far superior to the Spencer tracey version, fine film that that is as well. March's Hyde has a far more vicious, almost animal quality to it and his physical appearance is much more dramatci as well.
Knowing what a refined actor Fredric March was, his performance as Hyde is incredible and its a very energetic performance as well.
I couldn't fault this fine production, superb in every department. One of the best horror films ever created and with a knockout performance by one of Hollywood's greatest actors Fredric March. Watch this late at night with the curtains pulled shut for extra effect!!
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on February 2, 2001
Fredric March stars as the infamous Dr. Jekyll, the compassionate, forward thinking physician whose experiment with separating the dual natures of Man ends in tragedy. Jekyll believes Man has both a good and bad sides to his nature, and Jekyll's bad side takes the form of Mr. Hyde, a brutal, repulsive thug who destroys the life of Ivy, a "girl from the wrong side of town," who unfortuantely crosses paths with him. March is excellent in this role, especially as Mr. Hyde. He's almost unrecognizable in his transformation, and he plays both characters with a lot of style. Miriam Hopkins, never a subtle actress, digs into the role of Ivy and makes her sympathetic, sexy, and very memorable. Director Reuben Mamoulian experiments with camera angles in this early talkie, and although some of the close-ups aren't successful, the film never drags or fails to entertain. I've never read the novel to be able to state whether the film is faithful to the text, but the movie could hardly detract from it. It's very good drama/horror.
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on January 15, 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. When scientist Henry Jekyll attempts to separate the good from the evil he discovers that the evil is too strong for him and thereafter runs amuck in London as the demonic Mr. Hyde. This DVD contains the two best versions of this film, the all-star glossy 1941 treatment from MGM and the vastly superior, pre-code 1931 Paramount edition starring Fredric March. Directed by Roubin Mamoulian, March's interpretation of Hyde is a tour de force. The transformation sequences - where Jekyll becomes Hyde - are terrifyingly realistic, while the death of bar maid, Ivy (Mirium Hopkins in 1931)is absolutely chilling. True, this version lacks the polish and sheen that MGM brought to the '41 version - but the '31 scares the very soul out of you - and that's all one really should expect from a horror classic. I would like to add that there's nothing inherently bad about the Spencer Tracy version, though the code of ethics by this time prevented this version from indulging in the shock and thrills of its predecessor.
TRANSFER: The one disappointment on this DVD is that the 1931 version of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" was not digitally cleaned up. Age related artifacts including scratches, chips, tears and sometimes excessive film grain are present throughout the entire feature. They distract somewhat from the presentation of the film. In contrast, the 1941 Spencer Tracy version presents a near pristine looking print of the film. Both versions offer a solid, well balanced gray scale of the B&W picture and both are free from digital anomalies. The audio for both is mono but nicely cleaned up.
EXTRAS: The '31 version comes with an audio commentary that is thorough, not just on the production of this version, but also comments on the silent John Barrymore and Tracy versions. This is a historically dense audio track that film buffs will relish. There's also a Bugs Bunny cartoon and the 1941 theatrical trailer - which is really tacky!!!
BOTTOM LINE: Warner Brothers double bill is a must for collectors!
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