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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Victor Fleming
Cast:
Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner
Writing Credits:
John Lee Mahin

Synopsis:
Dr. Jekyll allows his dark side to run wild when he drinks a potion that turns him into the evil Mr. Hyde.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 5/17/2022

Bonus:
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [Blu-Ray] (1941)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 29, 2022)

Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde saw its first of many cinematic adaptations in 1920. For the third of these films, we go to 1941’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a star-studded affair.

Set in London circa 1887, prominent physician Dr. Henry Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) focuses his studies on the nature of good and evil in humans. He conducts controversial experiments, as he believes he can separate the two and thus help neutralize the bad side.

When Henry comes up with a serum, he uses it on himself. This creates a split personality, as the brutal “Mr. Hyde” comes out and creates problems.

Director Victor Fleming enjoyed a legendary year in 1939, as he worked on both Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz. Fleming made only a handful more movies after that, though, and he died in 1949.

Other than an uncredited turn on 1941’s They Dare Not Love, Hyde became his first work after 1939. Despite the high-profile cast, this flick doesn’t live up to the highs of Fleming’s films from two years prior.

This Hyde definitely boasts an awful lot of talent involved. In addition to Fleming and Tracy, we get Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner in the cast as well as double Oscar nominee John Lee Mahin as screenwriter.

While this might lead one to think the 1941 Hyde will provide a classic telling of the story, the end result falls short of those expectations. Though this one comes with some positives, it doesn’t approach greatness.

On the plus side, Hyde follows a more psychological path than most adaptations. This comes about primarily due to the fairly subtle physical transformation through which the lead goes.

In most takes on the tale, Hyde gives us a true monster. Indeed, the 1941 film took its cues much more from Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 Hyde that starred Frederic March as the title characters.

Look up stills from the 1931 film and you’ll see that makeup transformed March into an wolfman-like creature. On the other hand, the changes make to Tracy remain much more subdued, as Hyde just seems a little more Neanderthal but still doesn’t feel like a radical change from Jekyll.

Though I appreciate that less grotesque physical appearance of Hyde, I wish the filmmakers kept things even more low-key. I think a story in which we could question whether or not Hyde offered a physical change would seem more compelling, as it would keep matters more in the aforementioned psychological realm.

In that vein, we could wonder whether or not “Hyde” exists only in Jekyll’s head. As it stands, the physical alterations – minor as they may seem – act as enough to convince us that Jekyll’s potion really does alter his face/body/psyche.

Perhaps one could argue that the movie needs a Hyde who looks notably different than Jekyll to pull off the fact no one recognizes Jekyll when transformed. Nonetheless, I think that an altered hairstyle and acting would’ve allowed Tracy to create this illusion without effects makeup involved.

It’s this “small but still obvious” physical change that steps on Hyde’s potential as a psychological tale. Again, a film in which Jekyll barely “transforms” leaves open intriguing doors that close due to his facial shift.

While I still appreciate the movie’s Freudian bent, Hyde doesn’t explore these domains as well as it should. The filmmakers can’t quite decide whether to make events literal or figurative, and the end product suffers.

Not that I think this makes the 1941 Hyde a dud, as it actually offers a decent exploration of the source. Tracy feels a bit miscast as our lead and he can’t quite pull off the bestial nature of Hyde, though again, this may seem in keeping with the movie’s tone.

Though he performs some violent actions, the 1941 Hyde feels more like a pushy jerk than a literal monster. To use modern parlance, Hyde comes across as an example of “toxic masculinity” who intimidates though psychological pressure more than physical violence.

Tracy handles Jekyll just fine and doesn’t flop as Hyde. However, Tracy’s general “nice guy vibe” becomes hard to overcome, so that limits the range he can use for Hyde.

A more appealing turn stems from Ingrid Bergman’s work as an earthy Cockney barmaid. Granted, she can’t get a handle on the accent – it flies all over the place – but the usually regal Bergman proves surprisingly good as a woman of the streets.

Though not as much of a “woman of the streets” as she should be. It seems clear Bergman’s role makes more sense as a prostitute than as a barmaid, but the era’s Production Code put the kibosh on that.

Nonetheless, Bergman makes her character sympathetic and compelling. I didn’t think she could pull off this kind of part, but she does nicely.

Ultimately, the 1941 Hyde does enough to keep us with it but it fails to really prosper. While it becomes a moderately enjoyable take on the property, the involvement of so much ”A”-list talent means it fails to live up to expectations.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The Warner Archives imprint essentially guarantees quality, and Hyde lives up to that reputation.

Sharpness looked largely solid. Some “glamour” shots of the leading ladies resulted in mild softness, and a couple of interiors lacked great delineation.

Nonetheless, the image usually seemed well-defined. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes.

With a nice layer of grain, I suspected no intrusive digital noise reduction, and print flaws failed to mar the presentation. Blacks seemed dark and rich, while contrast appeared appealing.

Shadows came across as smooth and concise. Hyde offered another fine image.

While not in the same league as the picture, the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Hyde also worked well. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess.

Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source. Effects were similarly modest but they showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 81-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

The disc includes the movie’s trailer and no other extras.

Given the star-studded cast and Oscar-winning talent behind the camera, this 1941 adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde should deliver a classic. Unfortunately, it never seems better than just okay, as the end product cannot find the groove it needs. The Blu-ray brings solid visuals and appropriate audio but it lacks bonus features. Due to the film’s pedigree, it merits a look, but don’t expect greatness.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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