Saturday, October 9, 2010

Le Testament du docteur Cordelier

A modern (in 1959) French retelling of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by, of all people, Jean Renoir.

I've been catching up on my Renoir the past few months, and I've learned that he was far more eclectic than I originally realized. So I'm not surprised that he did a horror movie, but I must say, I have no idea what he was going for with this one. I believe it was a made-for-TV movie. For reasons I can't fathom, the film begins with Jean Renoir, as himself, arriving at a TV studio where he does an Alfred Hitchcock Presents style introduction for the film we are about to watch (even though we have already seen the opening credits). He then narrates the first few minutes of the film and, if I'm not mistaken, isn't heard from again until the very end.

There are two major flaws with the film. One: it treats the story as if you are unfamiliar with it, and presents it as a mystery. Renoir seems to be under the impression that you'd genuinely believe that the Jekyll and Hyde characters (here Cordelier and Opale) are two different people, saving the "reveal" that they are the same person for the last act. Talk about anticlimax. Two: the monster is stunningly unscary, just the lead actor padded up to look bigger and with a big wig and fake facial hair. He saunters around in an oversize suit, swinging a cane, and the only way I can actually describe it, is that it's like if Calibos from Clash of the Titans was trying to do a Charlie Chaplin impression. In fact, the performance is so slapsticky and goofy that I suspect that maybe it's intended as comedy. But of that's the case, I didn't get the joke.

Grade: C-

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