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Warner Home Video presents
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931 & 1941) (1931 / 1941)

"Now, if these two selves could be separated from each other, how much freer the good in us would be, what heights it might scale. And the so-called evil, once liberated, would fulfill itself and trouble us no more."
- Dr. Henry Jekyll (Fredric March)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: January 04, 2004

Stars: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner
Other Stars: Holmes Herbert, Halliwell Hobbes, Tempe Piggott, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter, Barton MacLane, C. Aubrey Smith, Peter Godfrey
Director: Rouben Mamoulian, Victor Fleming

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some sensuality, brief nudity)
Run Time: 03h:28m:34s
Release Date: January 06, 2004
UPC: 012569585928
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+C- B+

DVD Review

Few short stories have been filmed as many times as Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The 1931 version, Paramount's entry into the horror boom of the early 1930s, is clearly the best of these, with the singular honor of being the sole horror film to score a Best Actor Oscar®, until Anthony Hopkins did, sixty years later. It's paired here on a double-sided disc with the oddball 1941 remake starring Spencer Tracy, of all people.

"Well, you ain't no beauty." -Ivy Pierson (Miriam Hopkins), 1931 version

March stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll (here correctly pronounced as JEE-kul, unlike most adaptations), who is interested in splitting the good in man from the evil as part of his crusading work for the poor and underprivileged. A quick drink of his potion turns him into the evil Mr. Hyde (also March), who takes on music hall girl Ivy Pierson (Miriam Hopkins) in an increasingly sadistic relationship. As Jekyll begins to lose control of his dual identity, his relationship with upper-class Muriel Carew (Rose Hobart) begins to suffer and her father (Halliwell Hobbes) begins to grow suspicious of Jekyll's activities.

March is simply stunning here; his Oscar® was certainly well deserved, even if he had to share it with Wallace Beery in a rare tie vote. His Jekyll is credibly good and not syrupy; he seems to genuinely care about his hospital charges. At the same time, his Hyde is gleefully wicked and increasingly more animalistic as the film proceeds. He's greatly aided by the makeup, which makes Hyde at first like a Neanderthal (with the same pinheaded look that John Barrymore favored in 1920) and then increasingly more monstrous until his final transformation is completely appalling. The transformation was famously done in part on screen using light filters, and it holds up extremely well even in the CGI age. Some of the changes are accomplished with iffy lap dissolves, but the impact of the first transformation through the use of light alone is indelible. This is also a fine example of Pre-Code delights, with blatant sexuality and brief semi-nudity, not to mention viciously brutal violence of a kind that wouldn't be seen again until Night of the Living Dead over 35 years later.

Director Rouben Mamoulian and cinematographer Karl Struss also use the camera to great effect here. The opening is a three-minute POV shot as we follow Jekyll to a lecture; although this at first seems like mere flashiness, it sets up a later POV shot as Jekyll becomes Hyde. The identification of the audience with Jekyll thus makes us also identify with Hyde at the same time, increasing the impact of Hyde's crimes. Highly interesting diagonal wipes both connect related scenes and juxtapose and comment upon wildly diverse sequences. Double exposures are also heavily used, most notably in the lengthy scene of Ivy's gartered leg swinging over a conversation between Jekyll and Dr. Lanyon (Holmes Herbert). Interestingly, this appears to be the earliest use of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor in a horror film, which sparked a permanent association between the piece and frightening figures.

This disc includes the restored version of the film, reinstating most of the 17 minutes chopped from the film in the 1935 re-release after the Production Code was instituted. About two and a half minutes remain missing, and may well be lost for good. Although the restoration previously appeared on an MGM/UA laserdisc, this disc reinstates two additional short segments that were missing from the laser, including a shot of Hopkins nude in bed. There are still quite a few blips in the soundtrack that make lines unintelligible, but happily the climactic admission of Hyde, "I am Jekyll!" has the once-missing "Jekyll" reinstated (though the truncated version can still be heard on the commentary track).

"He ain't a human, sir. He's a beast." -Ivy Peterson (Ingrid Bergman), 1941 version

No second summary is necessary for the 1941 remake; MGM bought the rights to the 1931 script from Paramount (which explains how both of these films ended up with Warner, as a result of Turner's acquisition of the MGM library) and included many of the incidents and large chunks of the dialogue from the original script by Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath (though they are not mentioned at all in the 1941 credits). Just as MGM did with the silent version of Ben-Hur when the Heston version came out, the earlier film was suppressed and unavailable for decades in any form to avoid comparisons to the weaker remake. There is a slightly different emphasis this time around, as religion figures more prominently, especially in the figure of the Biship (C. Aubrey Smith), who lectures Jekyll (Tracy) on the theological usurpations that his theories threaten. March's Hyde is more animalistic, while Tracy's is more outright evil. But the big difference comes in the makeup. Tracy hardly uses any at all, beyond a bushy pair of eyebrows, to create his Hyde. This leads to questions as to why neither Ivy Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) nor Jekyll's friend Lanyon (Ian Hunter) recognizes him as Jekyll. This close resemblance passes without any comment at all.

Tracy doesn't hold a candle to March's Jekyll, though his Hyde at times equals the earlier one for savagery. The use of practically no makeup keeps Tracy's Hyde well within the realm of the human, making his monstrous acts all the more effective. Surprisingly, Ingrid Bergman has great difficulty pulling off Ivy; her cultured tones are completely at odds with the delinquent grammar that is called for by the script. She just ends up sounding ridiculous, especially when she occasionally attempts a slight Cockney accent. Lana Turner, on the other hand, makes for a very appealing love interest (here dubbed Beatrix Emery), and director Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind) lets the camera linger long on her luminous eyes and features. While Fleming is a good director, he's no Mamoulian, and there is little of the camera pyrotechnics found in the Paramount feature. The limitations of the Code certainly have something to do with the lack of sensuality here that was so pronounced in the March version. Miriam Hopkins stripped off her stockings and garters in a seductive tease of Jekyll that smolders with eroticism; when Bergman does the same, she simply whips off the stockings with a matter-of-fact rapidity as if she were just getting ready for the bath.

On the other hand, there are some very disturbing elements added, particularly in the nightmarish transformation sequences. The first finds Tracy hallucinating that he holds the reins of a chariot being drawn by a nude Bergman and Turner (of whom of course we see very little, but the image is nonetheless disturbing). Another such sequence finds Bergman's head stopping a champagne bottle as a giant corkscrew works into it. This visual imagination helps make up for the extra twenty minutes of padding that drags the remake down. But once it finally gets going and gets over all the religious babble, there are some great moments, most notably the more extended psychological abuse of Ivy by Hyde. Tracy gives a terrifying portrait of a controlling figure who has no limits to his tyranny. While not the equal of the earlier film, having the two for comparison is certainly welcome indeed.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Both versions have excellent clarity and greyscales, with texture being vivid without the use of edge enhancement. Artifacting is trivial for the most part. The source print for the 1931 film is a bit rough, no doubt due in part to its travels from studio to studio, with the restored sequences being a bit on the splicey side. But it's certainly better to have them here and splicey but not here at all. There's also a fair amount of flicker present in the earlier print. The 1941 film bears a bit of speckling but looks practically new, with startling clarity that allows one to pick out individual hairs on Bergman's arms in a medium shot. The grade is a composite for the pair, but the Tracy film would rank a solid A by itself.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both pictures are presented in 1.0 mono only. The earlier film, as is typical for early sound, is plagued with substantial noise and hiss. While there is some noise on the later picture, it is much clearer by comparison, with far more depth and presence to Franz Waxman's score. But neither is anything to get excited about.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 53 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by film historian Greg Mank
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bugs Bunny cartoon with Jekyll & Hyde theme
Extras Review: The principal extra is writer Greg Mank's commentary on the 1931 March version of the film. Mank is knowledgeable and seldom has dead air time as he discusses the history of Jekyll and Hyde on film, as well as relating technical information and production anecdotes regarding the March picture as well as a few comments regarding the Tracy version. The 1941 version also gets a surprisingly well-preserved trailer (located on the 1931 side, however). The package is rounded out by a beautifully restored Bugs Bunny cartoon, Hyde and Hare (1955), directed by I. Freleng. Although the minimalist influence of the UPA cartoons is felt here, the comedy is still rich and it makes an excellent companion to the two features.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Two classic takes on the classic monster tale, with a very good video transfer but dated sound quality, and a good commentary to boot.

 


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