Archive for September 1, 2008

Ain’t seen this one…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 1, 2008 by dcairns

The 1912 version, extracted. I like the simplicity, probably a necessity since the whole film is only 11 minutes long. Also, Jekyll is old, which is rarely the case in subsequent versions. The changeover is a straightforward jump-cut, a la Melies. Something to build on in future versions. Hyde seems to be somehow more working class, and also afflicted with partial paralysis and missing his front teeth. But I’m not knocking him.

Jekyll’s played by James Cruze, later a director of seriously deranged mainstream Hollywood flicks like THE GREAT GABBO and the Edward Everett Horton star vehicle (!) BEGGAR ON HORSEBACK. Cruze seems to have had a volatile mixture of talent and anti-talent: his bad choices are often more interesting than his good ones.

Although Cruze is credited for both roles, apparently in some scenes Hyde is actually played by Harry Benham — I have no idea why. The idea of separate actors makes complete sense to me, and if we stopped treating the part as a tour de force for a single actor and just cast different guys, the thing would work much more naturally. But separate actors for just SOME SCENES — that’s wonderfully mad. They should have called it THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF MR. HYDE.

Jekyll Week

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2008 by dcairns

“He gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation.”

Yes, September is REGGIE NALDER MONTH here at Shadowplay, as we celebrate the career, life, and charitable work of the Salem’s Lot star who –

No, wait, wait, that’s a TERRIBLE IDEA.

But it is in fact JEKYLL WEEK. Five days of schizoid ramblings.

Fiona and I have been running a range of different Jekyll & Hyde adaptations, from her favourite version (and one of her very favourite movies) the 1931 Rouben Mamoulian piece produced by Paramount, to the often-dismissed late Renoir curio, LE TESTAMENT DE DR. CORDELIER. It’s been fun!

“My devil had long been caged; he came out roaring.”

A general observation, which will hopefully be developed over the week: different versions of the story have often built upon their predecessors, whether they had the legal right to or not. Stephenson’s story has supplied the central idea, but the narrative structure of most versions owes more to the Barrymore film, which in turns appears to derive from a stage version. In a way, the novella has been treated like a myth, with successive accounts developing the story and adding new characters and elements to suit the mood of the times or the requirements of the media.

A trivial example: in Alan Moore’s comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (great fun, recommended), Moore ignores Stephenson’s description of Hyde as being significantly smaller than Jekyll, and follows the archetypal path laid down by The Incredible Hulk, making Edward Hyde a gigantic musclebound brute with inhuman strength. This suits the action-packed requirements of a comic book adventures, while also strengthening the connections between Stephenson’s story and the comic book tradition of the superhero/villain with a secret identity.

“My reason wavered, but it did not fail me utterly.”

Sean Connery’s somewhat regrettable swansong as star, very loosely based on Moore’s comic, preserves this notion and has Jason Flemying as a wiry Jekyll, transformed by a bulging special-effects muscle-suit into a he-man Hyde. Or maybe “it-man” would be more apt. LXG, as its dumb-ass producers wanted us all to call it, gets just about everything else wrong, and by bending Moore’s simple and effective comic out of shape, found itself on the sharp end of a lawsuit from filmmaker Larry Cohen (LXG ended up by using characters Cohen had already enlisted for a proposed project called Cast of Characters — a terrible title, incidentally). But the dumbed-down idea of a gigantic Hyde was a natural for an action movie blockbuster. Pitiable noise-fest VAN HELSING, which gave Fiona a migraine for the first time in her life, appropriates the same idea.

“It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut.”

So I’ll be trying to trace and examine the Jekyll-Hyde meme as it evolves through some sample films, and also just mucking about with whatever ideas get thrown up by the voyage.

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