Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

We know the story. Doctor Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) is experimenting in the true nature of man. The father of his hottie fiancee (Lana Turner) disapproves, but Jekyll can't help himself. Quite by accident he bumps into a low born cockney girl in the street (Ingrid Bergman) and falls deeply in lust. But he is a good man and mustn't allow base instincts take over. So he just kisses her. Nighty-night.

Well, where Jekyll must be a proper gentleman, good friend Hyde has no such requirements. Hyde coerces his concubine into being a kept woman and things slowly get out of hand. Again, you know the story. Tragedy for all.

For the most part, this was a remake of the famed 1931 version rather than the Stevenson work, and suffered the consequence of comparison. Tracy was eager to take the role but was embarrassed by it after fan reaction was rather harsh. Also, Bergman as a cockney barmaid? Hmmm. That's a bit of a stretch. Hotness allows one to get with many crimes and she did have it to spare.

There is one scene where a fevered Jekyll is struggling with his lust for the Bergman character and his duty to his fiancee. He is seen driving two horses, one dark and one white, with a manic expression on his face. Then the horses turn into Bergman and Turner, seemingly topless, with frantic, worried looks on their faces. How's that for slipping it by the sensors? This photo doesn't do it justice, but it's the best I could find.

This version was killed by the critics when it was released, but in fairness it's not bad. I haven't seen the Fredric March version yet, so I'll hold off final judgement, but it was definitely worth a look. AMRU 3.5.

One final comment about the media. I requested a set of disks from the library and when it was available, I didn't remember what it was or why I ordered it. I discovered that it was a four movie set, two of which were on my see list. This and House of Wax. With both movies, the DVD menu promised that the older version was on the flip side, but the set had Freaks and The Haunting instead. This matched the case, so I'm guessing someone bought the resale rights to the movies and didn't bother to change the menu.

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