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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1932 & 1941) - (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

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#1 of 57 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted January 06 2004 - 11:29 AM

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Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1932 & 1941)







Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1932 & 1941
Rated: 1932 - Not Rated/1941 - G
Film Length: 1932 – 96 Minutes/1941 – 113 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard
Audio: DD Mono
Color/B&W: B&W
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.98
Package: Snap Case






The Feature:
One of the five recent AOL Poll winners to be released today is Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. While there may have been some uncertainty initially as to which version was to be released, fans of the film were delighted to learn that two versions of the film were to be released on a single disc. The 1932 version with the special features are located on side “A” of the disc while the slightly longer 1941 version is located on side “B” of the disc.

Based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the 1932 Paramount version was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and the 1941 MGM version was directed by Victor Fleming (who also directed Gone With The Wind, The Wizard Of Oz and Captains Courageous). The earlier version starred Fredric March (who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Dr. Jekyll – pronounced “Gee-kul” in this version), Miriam Hopkins as Ivy Pearson and Rose Hobart as Rose Carew, while the later version had some rather interesting casting choices in the way of Spencer Tracy as Dr. Jekyll, Ingrid Bergman as Ivy Peterson and Lana Turner who plays the Dr’s fiancée, Beatrix Emery. Also present were a few of my favorite character players including Barton MacLane as the disturbed Sam Higgins and the unforgettable C. Aubrey Smith as the Bishop.

Without re-inventing the wheel in terms of the film’s summary, Dr. Jekyll is a compassionate man who has a belief that humans have two very distinct sides consisting of good and evil. The ambitious young doctor sets out to create a concoction that is capable of separating the two qualities. Unfortunately, after the potion is created, the doctor drinks it and he is transformed into an evil and ruthless person who goes by the name of Mr. Hyde and is then capable of the cruelest violence towards others. While his fiancée is away on a vacation with her father, the doctor decides to experiment with the concoction and winds up with a pathetic young call-girl who he brutalizes and keeps held up in an apartment using her for his own convenience. Fearing his abysmal fate with the new found concoction and the torments that come with it, he decides he must end his relationship with his bride-to-be. Unfortunately, his experiment goes too far and he now must try an antidote to try to bring an end to this quality he feared was inherently possessed by everyone.

I think the general consensus amongst fans of the story favor the earlier ’32 version. While I personally felt the earlier version did a better a job of telling the story, there were a few points worthy of mentioning with the later version, most notably in how the character transforms (which by the way still holds up pretty well for even today’s standards – in both versions, for that matter) from the good Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde. In the ’32 version, the transformed Mr. Hyde takes on an almost cro-magnum man like appearance which I felt allowed myself to become distanced from the evilness of the character. Personally, I favored the “human” looking Hyde in the ’41 version which seemed to evoke a true sense of wickedness since the appearance wasn’t all that far removed from that of the original character (even though it allowed for the obvious plot-holes). I also enjoyed Lana Turner’s portrayal as the fiancée who plays the role of a lady to perfection. The glow between the character (Ivy) and the Dr. was noticeably absent from the earlier version.

Ironically one of my favorite parts of the ’32 version was cut for many years and finally included on this restored version. During the opening 3 minutes of the film, Dr. Jekyll is introduced in the form of the first person subjective camera technique. We see his hands while he is playing the organ, we hear him talking to his butler and we finally see what he actually looks like when he steps in front of a mirror (not really a mirror – but look for the mistake on the glass). During his walk, there is a fake filter on the screen which gives the impression we’re looking through a camera allowing us to actually be the character. It’s an effect that works to great extent and a technique used several times throughout the film.

Even though I personally prefer the Hyde character in the ’41 version, where the movie falls flat is the inclusion of Bergman as Ivy who plays the role in a rather clinical manner and as a result the seedier feel of the ‘41 version is noticeably absent. Hopkins does a much better job in her portrayal of the (inferred) call-girl evoking the erotic feel and sexual innuendo that Hyde eventually succumbs to. I felt many of the sequences leading up to and after the transformation during the ’41 version were not as clear. The earlier version in my opinion does a much better job of tying up many of the loose ends. Both versions certainly have their strengths and weaknesses. I’ll leave it up to you as to which version you prefer. One thing is for sure, regardless of your preference, it’s nice to have the alternative included as to be able to compare both versions.



Video:
Let’s start with the 1932 version of the film. Remember, the film is 72 years old. To expect it to look like a film from even the 50’s is unrealistic. The grayscale and black levels are most certainly better than average. The clarity of the image is, for the most part, on the soft side although I’m rather confident it is not transfer related. The amount of film grain is rather minute. Unfortunately, there are a number of scratches and scuffs that are present for much of the film on a fairly consistent basis. From what I have read about the film, I’m confident in saying this is the best the film has ever looked. Also worthy of mention is the additional fifteen minutes that were added by WB for the restoration process. Unfortunately, it seems as though there are still two minutes that are outstanding and highly unlikely that we’ll ever see them recovered.

The earlier version isn’t perfect, nor should we expect it to be. It is however, a presentation that should make fans very pleased.

As for the 1941 version… WOW! This newly restored transfer is absolutely gorgeous. Due to the period, there are a number of black top hats and long overcoats and the black levels really show themselves off. Equally impressive are the grayscale and contrast levels. The film has a definite sense of dimensionality to it. Much of the film is shot dark indoors or outside with a foggy appearance and it shows up better than I originally anticipated.

I found the level of detail for this version to be exceptionally impressive. Again, typical of the period, the females were shot soft but the remainder of the film is as sharp as imaginable displaying great detail.

Surprisingly, the amount of film grain is minimal as are any sorts of scratches or blemishes - but they are present infrequently. There were occasional examples of light shimmer but never to a point of being bothersome.

This is an exceptional transfer that is sure to impress.



Audio:
While there is some hiss present for much of the time on the ’32 version, the track appears to retain the tonal quality of the original and has not been tampered with. There were periods of some of the action sequences sounding somewhat shrill-like, but the track always remained intelligible. While the occasional hiss and pop did show up, I’d still have to give the track a better average grade for the period considering its age.

Not likely to leave a lasting impression, but it’s not likely to disappoint either.

The track for the 1941 version is virtually free of any hiss. It was apparent occasionally but to an absolute minimum. And to its credit, it also sounded natural and un-tampered with.

Similar to the earlier version, there are a fair amount of action sequences. Never were there problems with the track sounding thin and the dialogue was as clear as we would hope for.

It’s pretty hard to get excited about mono tracks from films that are 60-70 years old. In the case of the ‘41 version, this is about as good as we would expect. Very well done.



Special Features:
There are three special features on this disc. The first feature is:
[*] A Commentary by film historian Greg Mank. I thoroughly enjoyed this commentary as Mr. Mank is absolutely non stop and is a wealth of knowledge on film and many of those involved. He not only discusses the ‘32 version but also the ’20 version starring Barrymore as well as the ’41 Tracy version. He also goes into great detail pertaining to Rouben Mamoulian, the censorship issues that the film endured as well as a discussion regarding the inclusion of the added footage of Miriam Hopkins. Don’t look for more than two seconds of dead time – you won’t find it. He is very easy to listen to with a great sense of humor and offers a ton of great facts. He talks pretty fast, but it’s certainly worth it. Too bad there aren’t more commentaries of this caliber.
[*] Warner Bros. animated short Hyde And Hare. This is a Looney Tunes short from 1955 directed by Friz Freleng. During this brilliant short, Bugs is adopted by no other than Dr. Jekyll. Bugs and winds up in a cat a mouse chase with the good doctor until he finds the potion and he too is then transformed into an evil looking green rabbit and eventually finds his way back home. As I’ve said before, I absolutely love the inclusion of these shorts on these WB discs of the films they are parodying. And this short looks great. Colors literally jump off the screen and there is very little to complain about in terms of scratches or speckle. Great job…!
[*] Finally, the Theatrical Trailer for the 1941 version is included. While it has obviously not been included in the restoration process, it’s in pretty decent shape and is a nice inclusion.



Final Thoughts:
While both films are excellent for various reasons, the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde succeeds due to its ability to show the sexual vulnerabilities of the doctor. The earlier version suggests a squalid atmosphere which is key to Jekyll’s descent into a world of promiscuity. As much as I adore Bergman, she wasn’t able to evoke the same emotion that was needed for the film to be persuasive.

Let’s face it. These films are 72 and 63 years old respectively. Given the condition of the original elements compared to what is being offered I would claim victory for either of these films to have had separate releases. But, for both films to be included on a single disc in the manner they are including a couple of special features that are superb and to be available for about $16 bucks, makes my decision in recommending this disc a very easy one.

Highly Recommended…!!!




Release Date: Today
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 57 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted January 06 2004 - 01:56 PM

Nice review. I've always been more of a fan of the 1932 version. It is unfortunate that a cleaner print was not available. I don't think that the 1941 version has the same "intensity" as the 1932 version. Hopefully there will be more deep "catalog" titles coming from WB in the future. I like the Double Feature aspect of this release. I'd love to see WB do this with "King Kong" by including "The Son of Kong".
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#3 of 57 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted January 07 2004 - 12:58 AM

Thanks for the great review Herb. I picked mine up yesterday at Best Buy, even though the employee swore that they didn't carry it. I don't know why I bother asking anymore. I watched bits and pieces of the '32 version as well as the cartoon and '41 trailer. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the '41 trailer, these are usually beat to hell and it was in spectacular condition. The cartoon was quite good, but I seem to remember a different Jekyll & Hyde WB cartoon. Am I mistaken or is there another one with a Peter Lorre like character as the doctor? That said, I was disappointed to find that Ms. Hopkins nude scene was not restored as rumored in another thread. Oh well, I guess you can't have it all. Does anyone know if any still from this scene still exist? At risk of sounding like a typical male, I would love to see them.

#4 of 57 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 07 2004 - 01:06 AM

I believe you are referring to the one with Bugs Bunny and the Monster. Forget the name, but it appears on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection vol. 1

 

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#5 of 57 OFFLINE   Randy A Salas

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Posted January 07 2004 - 01:13 AM

According to the commentary, the scene has been restored and is shown as filmed. She's in bed, and there's a side view in which it's quite obvious that she's not wearing any clothes under the covers. I'd be interested to know what more there is for, um, posterity. Many of these things become legendary over the years and then turn out to have never existed. Mank points out in the commentary that many potentially problematic scenes were in the script but never filmed due to studio/censorship concerns or for artistic reasons.
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#6 of 57 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted January 07 2004 - 01:17 AM

Can't wait to see these two classics very shortly indeed
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#7 of 57 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted January 07 2004 - 02:31 AM

Based on original running times there's still about 2.5 minutes missing from the 1931 J&H, but that appears to be lost for good. Posted Image Although I suppose it's possible there's still something in Paramount's vaults, I expect the restoration crew already tried there.

#8 of 57 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted January 07 2004 - 03:12 AM

If that's true, it sure is choppy editing!! It cuts from her sitting on the bed taking off her stockings and giggling to her pulling up the covers completely nude and Dr. Jekyll sitting on the bed with her. This cut reeks of censorship and reminds me of the jump cuts in many of the original Marx Brothers movies. Nonetheless, this movie is easily the best filmed version of Jekyll and Hyde that I've seen. Thanks WB!!

#9 of 57 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted January 07 2004 - 03:21 AM



Hair Raising Hare - LT (1946)
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#10 of 57 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted January 07 2004 - 03:24 AM


Phew, and I thought I was the only one Posted Image

Nice review Herb, looking forward to these.

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#11 of 57 OFFLINE   Jim Peavy

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Posted January 07 2004 - 09:33 AM

If you don't mind me asking, how much did you give for it? Good review, Herb! Look forward to seeing these and hearing the Greg Mank commentary (a favorite film writer of mine). Though, I was under the impression the version on the VHS was completely restored (?).
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#12 of 57 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted January 07 2004 - 12:00 PM

Jim - I'm not Eric but I can tell you that Best Buy was selling this for $14.99 (per their ad). For a cheaper price, you might go online. I know Deep Discount was selling this for $13.26 Great review Herb. I'll be picking this one up. Steve
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#13 of 57 OFFLINE   Conrad_SSS

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Posted January 07 2004 - 12:40 PM

This is a magnificent release. A gorgeous package from Warners. The 1932 version has never looked so good. A really HUGE improvement from the 1989 VHS and subsequent LD versions.

I heartily concur with Herb's fine reviewPosted Image

#14 of 57 OFFLINE   Jim Peavy

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Posted January 07 2004 - 11:51 PM

Thanks, Steve. Yeah, I was gonna' get it from DDD, but I might just book on over to BB and eat the $2.75. I'll have to find it first, of course!
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#15 of 57 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted January 08 2004 - 02:55 AM

The VHS version isn't too far off from the DVD, but there are a couple of small but important corrections, the most essential of which is fixing the sound glitch that occurred on all prior versions and turned Hyde's declaration "I AM Jekyll!" into "I AM--" and wrecked the scene. There's also a minor correction to the continuity in the first transformation scene.

#16 of 57 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted January 08 2004 - 03:20 AM

I just found the following information on IMDB. Has anyone ever seen this book?


#17 of 57 OFFLINE   Jim Peavy

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Posted January 08 2004 - 03:47 AM

Well heck, if this is being reported on the IMDB it must be true...! Posted Image

I've got the Richard Anobile scene-by-scene book for Frankenstein, but not the J & H one. There definitely was a J & H one though, so this should be easy to confirm (or disprove). Anybody?
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#18 of 57 OFFLINE   Conrad_SSS

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Posted January 08 2004 - 04:03 AM

The imdb comment was probably in reference to the older VHS/LD version. I believe that shot has been located and restored in the new DVD.

#19 of 57 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted January 08 2004 - 04:04 AM


I watched the 1941 version last night, & I still feel that the 1931 version is better. Too bad we could not have a commentary for the 1941 version. Even though Bergman is a beautiful & sexy lady, she just did not generate the sultry heat that Miriam Hopkins did as Ivy Pearson. That IMHO is the difference maker for me. Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

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#20 of 57 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted January 08 2004 - 09:16 AM



I used to have the book(it was a Christmas present when I was in 7th grade), and I can definitely confirm that the shot of Ivy getting into bed nude was in the book. I don't forget things like that. Posted Image





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