Wednesday, October 29, 2008

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 Movie 1

1931 is the year that is associated with giving the birth of the horror movie because of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein." Often overlooked is "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" which was also released that year, a film technically superior to either of Universals famous monsters as well as being superior story-wise to "Dracula" and at least the equal of "Frankenstein."

We all know the story. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Fredric March) theorizes that man is dual in nature with a noble good side, and a beastial bad side. He doesn't stop with theory. He creates a potion that allows him to seperate the two, sort of. He never manages to conjure forth a wholly decent side, just the monster of the id, Mr. Edward Hyde (Fredric March). Soon Jekyll loses control of his experiment, and Hyde is able to emerge without the aid of the potion, but is unable to be resubmerged without it. Jekyll's experiment, and Mr. Hyde's actions ruin Jekyll's life and leads to murder.

This movie is a complete masterpiece of every level. Every time I see it I'm blown away. Not only is March amazing to watch in both roles (which earned him a best actor Oscar), but the rest of the cast is excellent as well. What really shines in this movie is the directing, cinematography and editing. Most movies of this era, still adjusting to the transition to sound were clunky affairs with the cameras anchored in one position for the most part, but here the camera participates almost as its own character in the film. There's a lot of subjective camera work, split screens and double exposures that add drama, tension and poignancy to the movie. Shadows and mirrors are also used to great effect. The compositions and the gorgeous lighting truly take advantage of the great sets as well.

What's most surprising for first time viewers is how brutal and sexual this movie is for its time, far more so than movies would be for another 40 years. This is definitely not one to share with the kids.

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