As many know, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is about a doctor who develops a serum that changes the peaceful doctor into a crazed mad man. One of the early versions of this film was shot in 1941 and starred Spencer Tracy.
This is an older horror film, so people cannot go into the film looking for cutting edge effects. This is a piece of black and white celluloid that I personally believe was a well shot movie for its time. It also helps that I’m a fan of Spencer Tracy for some of his other films.
This film follows the normal plot for a Jekyll and Hyde adaption as we see the good doctor struggle with the incursions of the madman into his life. The film didn’t get rave reviews at the time as many claimed that Tracy’s portrayal of the monster was not dark enough. The makeup work and such did not give the monster quality that had been seen in an earlier 1931 version of the story.
Personally, I liked Tracy’s portrayal as I believe he sold so much through his eyes. There are some great close-up scenes of his eyes when he is in “madman” mode that send shivers down your back. Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner also have roles in this film and we get to see Bergman take on the part of the “Bad Girl” which went against her good girl image at the time. It was a great move on her part to help stop typecasting. Originally, Bergman had been set to play Turner’s role, but they were able to get their perspective roles switched.
As this film was shot in 1941, we have to realize that the censors where somewhat strict on what could be shown on screen. I state this as there is one scene in which Tracy is strangling a woman and she disappears behind the couch and we are left to determine what is happening. These types of tricks of letting your imagination work for you during a moment of terror, help draw you in. You are not shown what is happening, your imagination must work for you and sometimes you may imagine far worse than what is going on.
There are a few differences in the movie then the original Jekyll and Hyde story as some of the characters in the movie are not found in the book. This was done to add some depth to the film and supposedly make the story more interesting than the book.
This film will not hold up to modern day horror movies in special effects and it’s a story that most of us are well aware of. I enjoy this movie because of Tracy’s part in the film and also do to the supporting cast. It is a fun movie and one to catch on your classic movie channels when shown, or if you can find a great inexpensive movie rental.
Considering there have been over 100 forms of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story in cinema, this happens to be one of my favorite versions. I hope other horror fans take a look at this film and at least get some joy from the film.