Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1954)
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1954)
Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Hyde: Michael Rennie
Mr. Utterson: Cedric Hardwicke
Dr. Lanyon: Lowell Gilmore
The Girl: Mary Sinclair
Poole: John Hoyt
Directed: Allen Reisner
Produced: Edgar Peterson
Adapted: Gore Vidal
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Summary: This was an episode of the tv show Climax!, sponsored by Chrysler Corporation, and originally aired in 1955. Poole the servant knocks on Jekyll’s lab door (and this production adopts the “Jee-kle” pronunciation from the 1931 film), but Jekyll cries, “Go away!” Poole visits Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer friend, worried that Jekyll has been locked in for two weeks. He presents a prescription and frets that the handwriting may not be Jekyll’s. Utterson thinks it could be, if Jekyll is under stress. Poole wonders if Mr. Hyde has returned after a year absence. They go to the lab, hear Hyde’s voice, and break in. Hyde attacks, but Utterson shoots him dead. As Poole fetches the police, Utterson discovers and reads Jekyll’s journal: “Open in the event of my death or disappearance.”
We flash back to Jekyll arguing with Dr. Lanyon, witnessed by Utterson, about going “beyond science,” finding the soul to “play with it,” “dissect it.” What, asks Jekyll, if he could strike Lanyon to the ground and feel no remorse? Jekyll thinks he could separate the “monster” from the “angel” in humankind. “But suppose you release the monster? Suppose you uncage the monster?” It’s a risk worth taking “in the interest of science.”
Jekyll experiments and transforms into a slightly ape-like Hyde. We next see him visiting a music-hall. “The usual, Mr. Hyde?” He scares away a man and oppresses a terrified woman, insisting she kiss him.
Jekyll narrates, “Hyde was younger, more daring.” He confesses the exhilaration. Being called a “filthy devil” leads to an altercation at the music-hall. Hyde runs to Jekyll’s lab and transforms back, too quickly for the police.
Jekyll throws himself into charity work, but at a social event he involuntarily begins changing into Hyde and flees. Perhaps he’s “overworked.” The girl at the music-hall tells her friend she’s engaged. They’ll honeymoon in Brighton. Hyde arrives and oppresses her until her fiance threatens a thrashing of him. Hyde kills him and the “girl” shrieks like a seagull. The headline reads, “Horrible crime in Soho. Police search for Mr. Hyde.” Hyde demands “in the name of Jekyll” a package in the possession of Lanyon, but Lanyon refuses to help a wanted murderer. Hyde gets what he needs and transforms in front of Lanyon; this time a disgusing mole shrinks. He confesses that he “craves to be Hyde” but wants to stop. A policeman questions Jekyll about Hyde but Jekyll insists Hyde is not a friend, more a study in abnormal psychology.
The girl is depressed. Her friend tries to cheer her up when a “toff” comes in. It’s Jekyll, doing charity work in the area and wanting to help the girl. Talking to her, narrates Jekyll, the cabaret seemed “less tawdry and disagreeable.” But he involuntarily starts transforming and calling her “my girl” as Hyde had done. She squeaks in horror. He runs off. No chemicals are left after he had destroyed everything. He’s Jekyll the next day and gives Poole urgent orders for meals to be left outside and the door to the street padlocked on the outside. He wants to “keep the monster caged.” Because an ingredient in the formula had contained an impurity, new attempts to reconcoct the formula fail. He knows he shall never leave the room now that he involved himself in the “battleground” of good and evil.
The journal is brought forth by Utterson, and everyone realizes that the shot corpse is Jekyll. Lanyon declares the entirety “unholy.”
Commentary:It’s not too bad. The production cannot now shake the music-hall component, but it does eschew the crude doppelganger fiancée superfluity and the attendant oppressive potential father-in-law. It’s difficult to believe that the embarrssingly simplistic dualism, with notions of the “soul” made up of a monster and an angel, was ever viable, even in the nineteenth century, Tennyson notwithstanding. It comes across as thoroughly unconvincing here. The ending is anticlimactic, not only because everyone knows the story, but rather in light of probably the most effective feature of the show, the horror in Rennie’s face when he realizes transformations are out of his control.