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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 14: DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932)

The 1932 DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE: A rare example of the most famous version of a film being inferior to one of its remakes.

Unexpectedly, this looks like it will be the shortest of this year's 31 DAYS OF HORROR entries.

Last year I watched the 1941 Spencer Tracy version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE for the first time since I was a child and was amazed by how good and adult it was, especially for a film from its era, so I figured this year I would revisit the 1932 version of the story, which features Frederic March's iconic look as the kindly doctor's horrific alter-ego. So indelible is that iteration that when most folks think of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie they usually immediately think of March as the werewolf/apeman-like Hyde, even if they have not actually seen the film. Admittedly that visual for Hyde is truly memorable and quite disturbing, so I was looking forward to seeing the film again for the first time since I was in the single digits.

Upon sitting through the 1932 version again, I noted that it was one of those features that bore the just-post-silent feel to its acting and visual storytelling, and it tended to play like a dull drawing room stage drama when Hyde wasn't onscreen abusing women, engaging in felonious assault, and just being an all-around vicious asshole. In fact, if I'm being perfectly honest, I found myself watching the clock until the film finally reached its conclusion. It's not that the film was bad by any means but, pre-Hays Code content notwithstanding, everything that it has to offer is achieved to far greater effect in the Spencer Tracy version, which is an almost beat-for-beat remake of the 1932 classic. Trust me when I urge you to see the 1941 version instead. Click here to read my in-depth look at that one, which gets my vote as the definitive telling of this particular classic horror scenario.

Poster for the original theatrical release.

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