Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

Good Doctor Jekyll (Fredric March) wants to experiment into the darker side of human nature, when ... oh, what's that? You know the story already?

When a film like Jekyll and Hyde (or Jee-kal) is a heralded as this, why anyone would do what seems like a shot for shot remake only ten years later is a mystery to me. I mentioned in my write up of the 1941 version that it was a remake of this. I was wrong. They both are versions of a play based on the story. Either way, the scenes, sets, and story line matched too closely. And now that I've seen both, I can't help but compare.

The biggest difference is where Tracy's Hyde was a big jerk, March's was truly evil. Where Tracy's performance was competent and workmanlike, March was astounding. Every nuance, every subtle jesture was totally separate between gentleman and brute. This may have been the best acting performance I've seen to date.

As this version was "pre-code", Ivy Peterson (Miriam Hopkins) was free to be a prostitute. It was Jekyll's lust for Ivy that encouraged him to experiment on himself. And lustworthy she is. I wish I could find a better still. We're talking serious side-boob. Here Jekyll is busted by his uptight college.

Artsy camera direction what with the POV shots and fancy overlays and wipes, tremendous acting, and awesome makeup (the transformation scene was out of this world), this movie ruined two otherwise good movies simply because of comparison (Werewolf of London was the other). AMRU 4.
"Perhaps you prefer a gentleman. One of those fine-mannered and honorable gentlemen. Those panting hypocrites who like your legs but talk about your garters."

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