APES ON FILM: Dr. Jekyll, The Original Mad Scientist!

Posted on: Jun 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE – 1941
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Spencer Tracy , Ingrid Bergman , Lana Turner
Director: Victor Fleming
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: May 17, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 113 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s treatise on the duality of man, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was born in London in 1886.  Like Dracula eleven years later, the novella has permeated the groundwater of our culture and stands as a landmark of gothic horror literature. The term “Jekyll and Hyde” has punctuated our vernacular and has come to be shorthand for someone who presents a friendly face but harbors private evil. There have been over 120 stage and film adaptations of the story since its publication, and today’s column features the 1941 film version from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But let’s back up 10 years to set the scene for this movie.

Paramount Pictures made what many consider to be the definitive version of the film in 1931, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March, who won the Academy Award™ for Best Actor for his performance.  The film was a box office and critical success, and has stood the test of time with classic film fans. Ten years later, MGM created as literal a remake of the Paramount film as they could, with slight changes to Samuel Hoffenstein‘s and Percy Heath‘s 1931 screenplay made to satisfy the Hays Code, enacted in 1934. This code regulated the film industry in matters of “moral decency” in what was presented to the public for exhibition. The result, while quite watchable, is an inferior film.

There was no need to remake a 10 year old film – barring the fact that there was little chance to see the original, as television, home video, and streaming services were still science fiction at the time – but MGM bought the rights to a filmable script, had bankable stars to populate the film, and in order to avoid lackluster comparisons, did everything they could to hide the Mamoulian version away, causing it to become mired in legal restrictions which kept it out of the public eye for many years.

The trio of Tracy, Turner, and Bergman are certainly enticement to see the film, but Fleming’s direction seems uneven and meanders through a story that should be taut, and fast paced. The majority of the heavy lifting acting-wise is handled with aplomb by Bergman, who was originally cast in Turner’s role. She begged Fleming to switch the actresses’ places as she was tired of playing saintly women (as she would in JOAN OF ARC, 1948) and longed to be the bad girl in the film. Tracy acquits himself decently in the title roles, but his appearance as Hyde is not nearly as effective as Fredric March’s in the original. In fact, he winds up looking a bit like George Hamilton after a serious bender in many scenes. Lana Turner does as much as she can with her role, and she and Ingrid Bergman look fabulous throughout…a definite point in the movie’s favor.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation of the film reveals an enormous amount of detail unseen on previous home video releases. The studio’s restoration creates a much-improved viewing experience both in sharpness and accuracy of contrast levels. The sound quality is consistent with a film of this era, and presents Franz Waxman’s original score well. Unfortunately, the only supplementary feature on this disc is the film’s original trailer.

I wish I liked this movie more, but I won’t recommend you skip it. However, Warner Archive is set to release the 1931 version on BRD in October. Don’t miss that disc.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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RETRO REVIEW: Get Scandalous as the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema Screens Matt Tyrnauer’s Expose on Legendary Procurer, Scotty Bowers, SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD, Opening August 31

Posted on: Aug 31st, 2018 By:

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (2017); Dir. Matt Tyrnauer; Opens Friday, August 31 at the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

Director Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary, SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (2017) is many things. It is a romp through the most sordid tales of Hollywood’s past; it is an in-depth observation of LGBTQ culture during the repressive studio era; and it is the curious and complex story of one Scotty Bowers, Hollywood’s most notable pimp. It is important to mention that both Scotty and his former employees do not consider him to be a pimp, insisting that he never took money from those working for him. Regardless of the terminology used to describe him, the fact is that Scotty Bowers spent the postwar years in Hollywood setting up Tinseltown’s best and brightest with one of a gaggle of young men that hung around Scotty’s gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. In an era when being outed as gay would at the very least cost you your career and reputation, and in some cases put you in a mental institution or behind bars, the secretive services provided by Scotty proved to be an invaluable outlet for many stars to pursue their lifestyle behind closed doors, away from the paparazzi and the adoring fans that would be devastated to learn that their idols were anything less than the ideal straight laced, heterosexual figureheads of the Postwar era.

At 91 years old, one would assume that Scotty Bowers would choose to slow down in his twilight years, long withdrawn from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. This assumption could not be farther from the truth, as we see in film. Bright-eyed and talkative, Bowers has the enthusiasm of a man decades younger than his ninety-plus years. He and his wife Louise putter about their Los Angeles home and maintain active social lives that transcend their age (Scotty goes to publishing parties and meets up with his old employees; Louise sings at various nightclubs in full black-tie regalia).

The film captures Scotty’s most recent endeavor: the publication of his 2012 book FULL SERVICE, wherein he recounts his dealings with the stars. The book claims that countless celebrities thought to be heterosexual were in fact bisexual and gay, as evidenced by Scotty hooking them up with one of the many young men (and even a few women) under his employ. Scotty rattles names off like it’s nobody’s business (Cary Grant, George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Vivien Leigh among others). Many readers are concerned whether outing celebrities that presented as straight while alive is disrespectful, considering the fact that they had no chance to consent to being outed. Bowers vehemently denies any disrespect on his part, claiming that because he chose to wait until every star mentioned in the book had passed away, he is abstaining from causing damage that could have destroyed their reputation in life. Whether or not this is a morally-sound decision is up to the viewer, but Scotty brushes any accusations of libel off his shoulder.

As the film progresses, another less ribald and optimistic side of Scotty begins to be unearthed. He and his wife live in a hoarding hellscape. Scotty unwilling or unable to part with the trinkets he’s collected over the decades filling both his home, a second home, and multiple garages. He does not seem to consider this to be much of an issue, but his wife mentions in passing that his refusal to see a therapist plays a large part in his dysfunction. Scotty slowly begins to open up about his past and it is befallen with personal tragedies, from the deaths of his brother in WWII and his daughter when she was only 23. The onset of the AIDS crisis took the lives of many of his friends and colleagues and led to Scotty’s decision to retire from his career as a pimp. His unwavering work ethic and commitment to “show up and get the job done” left him emotionally disconnected, unable to cope with the scale of his heartbreak. The years spent bottling up the pain came to a head when Scotty began to come apart at the seams on camera, finally acknowledging and coming to terms with his pain in the most emotionally intimate moment in the film.

While it is true that SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD takes a more serious turn when delving into Scotty’s past, it is by and large a fun and witty film, chock full of off the wall stories about celebrity sexcapades straight from the source itself. While Scotty’s story is not one that is well-known by the general movie-going audience, it is a story worthy of being told, warts and all. Be sure to catch Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary exclusively at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema opening Friday, August 31.

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