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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1931)

An English doctor (Fredric March) has a theory that good and evil is inherent in every man. He is working on a potion that will separate the good and evil in man and thereby allow man to rid himself of his evil impulses. That's the theory but when he attempts to put his theory to the test by using himself as a guinea pig for the drug, it releases a second personality whose evil will not be contained. There have been over 100 film adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 book. This is considered one of the best if not the best though I'm personally partial to the 1941 Victor Fleming version. Rouben Mamoulian directed this pre-code adaptation and it's intensely imposing. Not many years into the sound era yet Mamoulian's camera is fluid and the film opens with some impressive tracking POV shots and he even makes use of split screen. This being a pre code film, the level of violence and sensuality is stronger than most films of the 1930s. Miriam Hopkins as a bar singer shows extreme decolletage and in one scene is obviously quite naked, barely covering herself up with a blanket. March, who won a best actor Oscar for his performance here, is very good. More so as Hyde where his simian appearance must have startled audiences of the day. With Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert and Halliwell Hobbes.

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