Plot: What’s it about?
Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been filmed countless times, in countless ways. The actors are different, the directors take different approaches, and special effects improve, but the basic plot remains the same. Dr. Henry Jekyll has worked on numerous studies about human behavior, a subject which interests him to no end. He has drawn some conclusions from his various projects, but one basic assumption returns time after time, one which Jekyll has come to hold as truth. He believes that man is divided, with a good side and an evil side, which coexist within every human in the world. Some men can hold back their evil sides, while others are torn to pieces by their more base instincts. If his line of thought is correct, the two sides can be separated and in the process, liberate man from his darker impulses. But how can these internal forces be divided? A normal operation would be impossible, since the dark side resides not only in the body, but in the mind. So Jekyll surmises that chemicals could turn the trick, some kind of formula to keep the evil side of mankind in check, as it were. He uses himself as a test subject, only to find himself consumed by his darker self. He tries to stop using the formula, but it is too late and he must see this most personal experiment through. Can Jekyll ever return to his former self, or has Mr. Hyde gained a permanent foothold?
This is a most welcome release, as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a fantastic story and these are two of the best cinematic renditions. This release was fueled thanks to the 1941 version, which has the star power of Spencer Tracy, but the 1932 version steals the show and makes this release a must own for film buffs. I would shell out for both films even in separate editions, so to snag both in one swipe is a great value. So kudos to Warner on the double dose, but more on that later, as we need to focus on the films. Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 version is a masterpiece, but one that few have seen or even know exists. There is such style and care evident in Mamoulian’s work, you can’t help but return to soak it all in once again. The visuals, the atmosphere, and all the other elements just seem in perfect form here. Fredric March even took home an Oscar for his performance, so the cast is up to task as well. While not as effective, Victor Fleming’s 1941 version is also solid and warrants some attention. Tracy is in fine shape, not to mention his gifted and beautiful costars, Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman. I still hold Mamoulian’s version to be superior, but the 1941 edition can more than hold its own. And the best news is that you don’t have to choose, as both versions are included in this single release. So watch both movies and then form your own opinion on which one is the better, or just agree that both are fine pictures. In any event, the movies are great and Warner’s DVD is great, so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Both versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are presented in full frame, as intended. As expected, the more recent film fares better in terms of print condition, but the elder picture is by no means poor, not even close. The print has some nicks and marks, as well as grain at times, but come on, the movie is over seven decades old. And for what it is, I am stunned and thrilled that the elements look as good as they do here. Not to mention the restored footage, which was culled from slim surviving elements, but still looks solid. The 1941 version, while only about ten years newer, comes off as almost pristine at times. The image is crisper and cleaner, which leads to a more effective and pleasant visual presence. So the newer films looks better, but Warner has served up terrific presentations for both of these pictures.
Audio: How does it sound?
The special of the day is mono soundtracks, which have been dealt to both films in this double feature release. As was the case with the video treatments, the newer version has less flaws, but again, both films are well handled. A few instances of hiss or distortion can be heard, more often in the older version, but no serious issues arise. Even when trouble does knock, it is never a major issue or even a minor distraction. So yes, age spots are evident from time to time, but given the age of the material, its hard to complain. The dialogue is clean throughout both movies, while music and sound effects also come through well. You can also enable subtitles in English, Spanish, and French for both versions.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary track is included for the older of the films, as film historian Greg Mank gives a look into all aspects the production. He delves into the source novel, talks about the actual production, and covers what has been restored. I was very pleased with his session, as he covers a lot of information, but never becomes dull. His solid sense of humor keeps the track lively, though his wealth of insight makes it most worthwhile. This disc also includes the Hyde and Hare cartoon short, as well as the 1941 version’s theatrical trailer.