'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' DVD: Oscar-Winning Classic Early Talkie of Timeless Horror Tale of the Beast Within Everyone
Warner Archive continues giving Golden Age fans a chance to "catch 'em all" regarding the 1,000s of "Must See" films of that era with the aptly March 27, 2018 DVD release of the 1932 Frederic March version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde." As the DVD liner notes remind us, the Patty Dukeesque acting of March earns him a Best Actor award for that role.
This tale has the same substantial depth as fellow classic horror films "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" of the era. This one centers around the fact that dressing man in finery and developing him to a level of refinement that makes Emily Post seem like a literal two-bit whore does not change that we all have a savage nature that includes carnal desires. The credible speculation regarding the real-life Jack the Ripper being an outwardly respectable London gentlemen (perhaps an actual royal) supports the theory of the fictional Dr. Jekyll.
The related live-stage and melodramatic vibes of "Jekyll" are very apt both for this early period in the film industry and the nature of the story. The aforementioned award-winning portrayal of Hyde as a combination of Neanderthal Man and the Wolf Man strongly contributes to this theatrical sense.
The film opens with a busy day for respected Dr. Jekyll. He is off to deliver a lecture on his theory that man (and woman) has two distinct parts. They essentially are the respectable socially acceptable portion of ourselves that we present to the world and our "dark passenger" that represents the savage nature that remains despite our lengthy evolution. The rest of the story is that Jekyll believes that he can separate these aspects of us so that we essentially have the "good" one and the evil twin with the figurative goatee.
This medical practitioner then goes to the hospital where he first helps a young girl recover the use of her legs and then works overtime to personally operate on a scared old woman. The latter humanitarian gesture makes him late for a formal dinner at the home of his fiancee Muriel Carew and her strict and humorless father Brig. Gen. Danvers Carew (ret.).
Jekyll being late already incurs the wrath of Daddy; politely but firmly resisting a demand to postpone Muriel's wedding adds fuel to the fire.
Jekyll wraps up his day by coming to the aid of damsel-in-distress/dance hall girl Ivy Pearson. This loose woman seems to be one bad performance away from working a street corner and offers our hero tit for tat regarding both his medical services and his kindness.
The hardest working man in medicine next goes to his home office/man cave to work on his formula to separate the beauty from the beast. As the film title suggests, he succeeds. Surprisingly, the transformation is one of the least melodramatic moments of the film and does not even involve smashing test tubes or beakers.
The newly born Hyde then goes on the town in search of Ivy; he soon finds her and follows the still modern tradition of having the bartender summon the object of his affliction to his table. These leads to a situation in which Hyde provides tat in the form of a love nest that is a step up for our fallen woman.
Jekyll sowing his wild oats in the guise of Hyde predictably threatens his engagement and lowers his already not great status in the eyes of The General. The Carews leaving for an extended trip to Boston is an additional complication.
Meanwhile, the Hyde side exerts himself even stronger to the extent that his behavior deteriorates and takes control even when Jekyll does not drink the transformation formula. The clear moral is to not let the genie out of the bottle.
This all culminates with a variation of the villagers storming the castle of the monster. The twists at the end that purport to deliver justice are interesting and almost definitely influence the outcome in the Hitchcock Jekyll and Hyde film "Psycho." Both films clearly show that we all go a little mad sometimes.
The most fun special feature is the 1955 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hyde and Hare" in which the titular wascally wabbit learns the lesson about being careful about the things for which you wish. In this case, it relates to convincing kindly Dr. Jekyll to adopt him as a pet. A particularly cute scene has Bugs adopting the guise of a cute little rabbit as opposed to the stinker whom we all know and love.
Archive additionally provides the highly atmospheric and clever theatrical trailer for the 1941 Spencer Tracy version of "Jekyll."
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Jekyll" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: A desire to attempt to do justice to the phenomenal design of the complete series locker edition of "The Wonder Years" and to the series itself requires a two-part review. This initial discussion focuses on the set itself and the early seasons. The follow-up covers the later seasons, including the precedent-setting series finale.]
Time Life very aptly extends its recent pattern of releasing DVD sets of variety shows (including the reviewed "Laugh-In" and also reviewed "Carol Burnett Show") from the '60s and '70s to rerelease a CS DVD set of the 1988 -93 dramcom set in the '60s and the '70s "The Wonder Years." This one is the product of Carol Black and Neal Marlens, who also are the show runners of the '80s ABC famcom "Growing Pains."
The figuratively mind-blowing special-edition locker set requires beginning this discussion of "Wonder" with details regarding this set that deserves every design award out there. The Unreal TV library includes roughly 20 deluxe CS DVD sets, and this one far outshines all of them in cleverness and construction quality.
Our accolades begin with the locker itself being good quality metal that does not bend or warp. It sits on four small padded feet that keep the locker steady.
The delight continues with opening the locker and discovering more-than-ample room for the two loose-leaf binders that will bring back memories of personal wonder years; you also get a yearbook. The "but wait, there's more" item is a set of magnets for adorning the locker.
Each sturdy binder consists of the discs, complete with detailed episode synopses, of three of the six "Wonder" seasons. Each disc is in its own sleeve that allows removing it without any risk of scratching it.
The equally sturdy yearbook begins with fun autographs by most of the cast and crew; we also get copious photos and profiles from both back in the day and the present.
Moving on to the actual show, this early 30-minute series with almost equal "dram" and "com" also almost certainly is the first in which an adult narrator (Daniel Stern in this case) comments on his "wonder years" roughly 20 years earlier; this concept dates at least to the early '60s in which teen Dobie Gillis regularly breaks the fourth wall in the spectacular "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" sitcom.
"Years" is notable as well for following the wisdom of the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days." Producer Garry Marshall builds that series around the concept that a series that is based in the past does not look dated in the future.
An observation in the aforementioned yearbook addresses the use of era in the series. This notes that we do not see how our childhoods parallel national events and trends until we achieve full adulthood.
Future television show director and occasional adult actor Fred Savage plays "Years" lead Kevin Arnold. The expressiveness of Savage and talent for expressing non-offensive disgust at the stupidity of peers and parents alike show the reason for casting him in the classic film "The Princess Bride." (Seeing him get in the spirit of "Years" fantasy scenes also is fun.)
Despite a well-known predictable element, the "Years" pilot deserves classic status. We meet 12 year-old Kevin during the summer of '68 before he enters the newly renamed Robert F. Kennedy Junior High. Early narration includes commentary that the suburban setting of the titular period in the life of Kevin lacks the benefits and the disadvantages of the city and the country but provides a pretty good place to grow up.
A related amusing aspect of this is that the series is set in the northeast (most likely New Jersey) but that wide shots clearly show that the neighborhood is in California.
Older brother Wayne gets right down to humiliating and pummeling Kevin without provocation; this sets the stage to establish the appeal of literal boy-next door Brian Cooper, who is the big brother of series-long love interest/ literal girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar).
Nineteen year-old Brian has gorgeous blonde hair, a rock-hard body, a cool car, and smokes. He steals his first scene by calling out to Wayne to either leave Kevin alone or endure the same punishment that Wayne is dishing out.
The narrator sharing that Brian goes onto Viet Nam makes the fate of this character predictable even to new comers to this series.
Other '60stastic early episodes center around Kevin and nerdy best friend Paul getting excited to reap the benefits of the brand-new law requiring adding sex education to the public school curriculum, the Apollo 8 mission to orbit the moon and safely return to earth, oldest Arnold child high-school flower child Karen entering a relationship that is more open than she understands with a radical college student (John Corbett of "Northern Exposure" and "Sex and the City,") and a Christmas episode in which the Arnold children and their housewife mother Norma try to persuade gruff middle-management job holding Dad to buy a color television.
All of this works because the Arnolds are a real family with real issues that are nor presented in an overly comic or dramatic fashion. No one is extreme, and the problems often are not solved in 30 minutes. One early example is Kevin still incurring some wrath from his friends and classmates after mercilessly ridiculing them. There is not any third-act grand-gesture by our everyboy.
The spectacular copious special features include a 2014 cast reunion.
Time Life once again awesomely socks it to us with the March 20, 2018 DVD release of the 1969-70 S3 of the unique "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." The S2 review provides a good introduction to this phenom of a Swinging '60s borderline burlesque sketch-comedy show that features both Hollywood royalty and young lions.
One surprise is that second-season newcomer Dave "Reuben Kincaid" Madden does not return for the third season despite "The Partridge Family" not premiering until 1970. High-profile new kids on the block for S3 include '60s sex kitten Pamela Rogers and Britcom star Jeremy Lloyd of "'Allo 'Allo" and "Are You Being Served." Having fellow Brits Peter Sellers and Michael Caine as guests early in S3 further demonstrates that legendary producer/creator George Schlatter recognizes the incredible comedic talent of our former oppressors.
Further, the Ready for Primetime Players that also include Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Henry Gibson demonstrate that talented "kids" offering hip and subversive comedy goes back before the mid '70s.
The mod lightning-paced format intersperses song-and-dance numbers with one-liners by the cast, the special guest-stars, and the Burbank and Hollywood royalty who stop by to deliver either one line or to make a similar very brief appearance. An example of the later is Bob Hope literally popping as a brother-in-arms of the "very inteeeresting" German soldier character of Arte Johnson.
A perfect instance of all the above is Sellers appearing as the twin of Johnson's dirty old man Tyronne F. Horneigh to join that character in sandwiching Buzzi's frumpy spinster Gladys Ormphby on the park bench that Horneigh and Ormphby frequently frequent.
Rowan and Marin personally awarding the "Fickle Finger of Fate" to a well-deserving individual or entity is the most blatant example of political humor that often risks making the Smothers Brothers state that "Laugh In" goes to far. The first presentation goes to a judge who does not reduce the sentences of two black men who cause minor damage in retaliation for a KKK attack; the "rest of the story" is that the judge admits that the punishment is unduly harsh.
S3 is particularly notable for adding Lily Tomlin to the cast mid-season. She states in an interview that is an S3 bonus feature that that comes about as a result of Schlatter watching her audition for another series. Tomlin shares during the tribute to Schlatter for his MASSIVE donation to Pepperdine University that is the other bonus feature that Schlatter would ask Worley to perform the light-blue material regarding which Tomlin did not feel comfortable.
Tomlin beginning this run with her portrayal of Ernestine the operator gets things off to to a strong start that never wanes. Her sharing in her DVD interview that Schlatter sneaks a subliminal message in those skits is hilarious.
Early S3 episodes also stand out for bringing popular music stars of the day to the show. Diana Ross, Sonny and Cher, and The Monkees show up on subsequent weeks and prove the philosophy of Carol Burnett that the best guests on a variety show are the ones who can both sing and do comedy. Ross outshines the group in both regards by fully embracing the "Laugh-in" spirit. Ringo Starr does not show up until late in the season.
As cliched as it sounds, they simply cannot make 'em like "Laugh-In" these days. At the outset, the hostile political divide in 2018 ensures that any form of gutsy political humor prompts calls for boycotts by half of the audience. Second, the public appetite for good corny humor sadly is greatly diminished. The people mostly demand insults and/or genuinely blue material.
Finally, we are more of a culture of personalty than genuine talent these days. On top of this, most celebrities have a more narrow following than the generation of matinee idols before them. They also typically lack their sense of humor.
A prime example of this contrast is Greer Garson being an incredible sport each time that she appears on "Laugh-In." One cannot imagine Meryl Streep even agreeing to appear on such a show or being a total goof if she makes the trip to beautiful downtown Burbank. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls Ricki.
Unreal TV 2.0 evolves from http://classictvdvdreviews.blogspot.com/ (which still is up.) Both sites are labors of love dedicated to preserving the golden and silver ages of television and film and celebrating new content that values art over commerce. The same principle applies regarding boutique hotels.