So after an amazing day yesterday, I settled in to watch another film from the 101 Horror Movies book.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Fredric March in the duel role.
Two points – number one, I liked it.
Number two, I didn’t like the name pronunciation, I’ve always grown up calling him Doctor Jekyll (Jeck-le) and throughout the film they say Jekyll (Gee-kle). Have I been wrong all of my life?
Based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson, the story follows the good Doctor as he pontificates on the duality of man, and whether or not his darker side can be eschewed and left behind.
Although, it seems to me, that his darker side is the one that runs him, whether he wishes to admit it or not.
What would we be without our baser urges and animal instincts? I’m put in mind of that classic Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within” as Kirk (“I’M CAPTAIN KIRK!!!) starts to realize that he can’t exist without his darker side, balancing his compassion with the cold ability to make decisions that can cost a crewman’s life (even if it is some no name in a red shirt 🙂 ).
I was quite surprised at the level of sexuality that was prevalent in the film, this was the 30s! The suggestive placement of hands, the glimpse of stockings and garters, the overt sexual invitation that Ivy (Miriam Hopkins) makes to the doctor.
But at it’s heart, that’s what the film seems to be about, sex.
Jekyll and his fiancee keep pushing at her father to allow them to marry sooner. You can tell they are very much in love, but respecting the restrictions of the time and society by not consummating their relationship until they are married.
Then when her father and Muriel leave London for a time, Henry Jekyll settles in to work on his formula for separating the dual natures of man. And POOF! His inner darkness is released in the form of the vaguely ape-like, very animal-like Mr. Hyde, who is more than happy to act on those urges, that Jekyll, due to societies constraints has been unable to fullfill.
This includes the locking away of Ivy for himself, sequestering her in an apartment, where she is kept locked away for his needs and wants alone. He beats her, and uses her.
It doesn’t stop there though, every time he turns he becomes crueler, his appearance becoming less animal-like and downright monstrous as if in reflection of the darker urges he’s giving in to, including murder.
When Muriel returns to town, Henry tries to stop, but Hyde has become more powerful, able to surface without chemical aid. Henry starts to realize that to keep her safe from Hyde, he has to leave her.
Everything comes apart when Hyde assaults Muriel, and Jekyll pays for it.
Hmm, perhaps they should have waited.
This is a very enjoyable adaptation of the classic story, however not all people care for black and white classic films.
In that case, I suggest you watch the updated BBC series Jekyll written by Sherlock and Doctor Who show-runner Steven Moffat (this guy does seem to get a lot of love on this site.)
James Nesbitt takes over the title role, and his performance is truly frightening and amazing.
He portrays Tom Jackman who is the only living descendant of Dr. Jekyll. He has agreed to share his body with his alter ego, Hyde, but keeps his family and life a secret from the monster.
Until Hyde surfaces and discovers them.
Much like his Sherlock update, Moffat’s Jekyll is faithful to the source material while updating the story and the scares for the modern day viewer, to great success.
Nesbitt is nothing short of brilliant n the series, and he’s surrounded by a stellar cast including Gina Bellman (Coupling) and Michelle Ryan (Doctor Who).
The duality of man has always been an interesting subject, and these two versions of the classic story do it great justice.
Check them out!