31 Days of Halloween 2016 #10 – Spencer Tracy as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Which version of this story is best? There’s plenty of versions to choose from. Most people prefer the 1931 version, with the goofy Hyde and over-the-top performances. The 1941 version starring Spencer Tracy is way more subtle and takes a psychological approach, as Jekyll explores the human mind. He ultimately can’t separate himself from chaos and insanity, instead creating a demon that embraces evil.
The trick to this movie is that Jekyll is already a perverse man. He talks wildly about experimenting with the human mind and separating the identities of good and evil hidden within the human body. He boasts about turning a God-fearing man into an evil drunkard. When he meets Ivy played by Ingrid Bergman, Jekyll is tempted by indiscretion and I think this is why he begins experimenting on his own psyche, to quell his own weaknesses or control them. He’s not able to do either one. When his fiance ships off on a trip, Jekyll is really in a jam now.
I think I like the approach to Mr. Hyde in this movie. He’s not just roll-your-eyes crazy and he’s not a sadistic serial killer, although he has elements of both things in his personality. He is evil, and Jekyll uses him to act out what he’s restricted from doing because he’s engaging to an upstanding girl named Beatrix, played by Lana Turner. He begins to stalk Ivy, gets her fired and sets himself up as her sugar-daddy. The interactions between Ivy and Hyde are the best in the movie. I should say that Spencer Tracy’s glowering evil approach is really good and I can tell Hyde is relishing in the evil he is dishing out to Ivy. It’s a good performance.
Being Hyde by this point is not about science, as in the beginning, but more about fun. Jekyll enjoys every second of his transformation, while his fiance is away. He can’t help himself. When his fiance returns from overseas, Jekyll realizes he’s gone a bit too far, and tries to correct his mistakes. He promises Ivy that Hyde is gone forever, but I think you can predict what happens next. Jekyll inadvertently transforms into Hyde and returns to attack Ivy, without planning to and without taking the evil transformation potion. It’s like his subconscious won’t let go of his wild experiences as Hyde. That tells you something about Jekyll as a person.
Hyde continues acting impulsively and murders indiscriminately. He kills Ivy. He kills his fiance’s father. When the authorities finally track him down, Hyde can’t stay in his Jekyll form. He transforms into the murderer and screams his head off that’s he’s Jekyll, demanding that everyone recognize him as Jekyll, not the embodiment of sadism and evil. Again, this could be his subconscious rearing its ugly head.
Overall, I like this movie a lot. Spencer Tracy is good, Ingrid Bergman is great, and Lana Turner is just there. Can’t have everything, I guess. The plot is the perfect Freudian study of good and evil in the human psyche, and not as outlandish as other versions of the same story.
31 Days of Halloween 2016
31. Young Frankenstein (1974)
30. Jason X (2001)
29. Cloverfield (2008)
28. The Monster Squad (1987)
27. Bad Moon (1996)
26. The Haunting (1963)
25. Splinter (2008)
24. Frenzy (1972)
23. Aggression Scale (2012)
22. The Exorcist III
21. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963)
20. Silver Bullet (1985)
19. Joy Ride (2001)
18. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Funhouse (1981) by Tobe Hooper Shin Godzilla (2016)
16. Videodrome (1983)
15. Re-Animator (1985)
14. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
13. Cube (1997)
12. Evil Dead
11. Day of the Dead (1985)
Tales of Halloween (2015) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
9. They Live (1988)
8. The Innocents (1961)
7. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
6. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
5. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)
4. Hatchet (2006)
3. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
2. Halloween II
1. Silence of the Lambs