Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I've caught several film versions of the Robert Louis Stevenson story lately. The classic plot goes like this: Dr. Henry Jekyll, a fine upstanding gentleman, believes that every man has a good and evil side to their personality. If the medical community can figure out a way to split off and contain the evil side, it will better mankind. To prove this, he develops a potion that allows the evil side to run horribly amok and tests the potion on himself. Presto! There is the criminal Mr. Hyde, who commits horrible crimes in a long and dramatically swirling cape. By the time Dr. Jekyll realizes the effects of self-experimentation, it's too late.

The story has been filmed as recently as last year, but I'm going to rank the versions I've seen lately.

4. Spencer Tracy, 1941

Not so good. I love Spencer Tracy. We all love Spencer Tracy. This is just a terrible role choice for the man. The entire point of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the transformation of the civilized fellow into the rabid animal. It just doesn't work here. Tracy merely looks like he was out drinking too much the night before and he's feeling a bit cranky. He's simply not at all menacing. Ingrid Bergman isn't a whole lot better. Lana Turner is lovely, yes, but not lovely enough to make this good. A lot of stars, but disappointing.

3. John Barrymore, 1920

Silent and spooky. I have a bit of a crush on John Barrymore, and who could blame me? His transformation is amazingly convincing and creepy. The special effects for the time are astonishing. The only downside is that it's silent, and silent movies just don't translate very well today. It's well-worth seeing, though, just to see Barrymore at his best. You'll have trouble recognizing that the same actor is playing both roles, and that's the very definition of success where this story is concerned.

2. Frederic March, 1931

Yes! This is how the story should be done! Frederic March is amazing (he won an Oscar for the role), and the transformation scenes are astonishing for 1931. His Mr. Hyde is ugly, scary and fairly lusty. The movie is beautifully shot through fog and violence. Very good and even a little bit spooky for a movie from this era.

1. Tweety Bird, 1960

Hyde and Go Tweet. Sorry. Because I am such a highbrow cinema scholar, Evil Tweety is one of my favorite characters of all time. Come on, you know you agree. Look at him. Yikes!

1 comment:

  1. hahhahaha you can tell that i am a literary genius as the 1st thing that caught my eye was evil tweety!