This is not part of the Universal Monster series. Paramount made this film and Frederic March was a pretty big star at the time so this movie was made as a serious literary drama. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t contain scenes and effects taking advantage of the hedonistic exploits of Mr. Hyde. It does and to a degree that shows that this is during the pre-code period.
The plot follows the usual story line and we witness the happy, virtuous and talented Dr. Henry Jekyll metamorphose into the bestial sadistic Mr. Hyde. And we follow as Jekyll’s life and fortunes come crashing down. And of course, everyone around him is destroyed in the catastrophe.
The story by Robert Louis Stevenson was supposed to be about the duality of the human soul. The theory holds that the evil side of the human psyche is also the active/vital part and the good is the passive/weaker part. And in a sense there is truth in that. Our basest instincts are thoroughly hard-wired and are inseparable from the rest of our selves. Bottling up those instincts eventually leads to them bursting out in a destructive explosion. The saner course is to train and channel the energies of the brute and tame them to our better nature. So that’s the philosophy.
Now about the movie. Well it’s kind of fun. There are all kinds of outdated special effects and some hammy acting on display. But it’s a pretty well-done production. I think it’s an entertaining old monster movie. And I like it better than the later version with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman. I recommend it to fans of old monster movies.
As our first official classic movie review, I’ve picked a beaut. “The Caine Mutiny” is a World War Two movie made nine years after the war had ended. It is an adaption of Herman Wouk’s novel and stage play. This movie has a cast that included star, Humphrey Bogart, veteran actors like Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray and Jose Ferrer along with character actors like Lee Marvin and Claude Akins. It follows the crew of the USS Caine, a minesweeper under the command of a very difficult captain, Philip Francis Queeg played by Bogart. A series of incidents convinces the officers that Queeg is a dangerously paranoid lunatic. It all comes to a head during a typhoon when the officers relieve Queeg of command. This sets up the finale of the movie, a court martial of the officers who mutinied against their captain. Jose Ferrer portrays the defense counsel and his part is a tour de force. He dominates the end of the movie and resolves the conflicting faults of the main characters by identifying “the true author of the Caine Mutiny” and placing blame where it was deserved. All of the veteran actors perform admirably with Fred MacMurray being especially notable for his character portrayal against type. There is one weak aspect to the movie. One of the primary strands of the plot is the story of young Ensign Willis Seward “Willie” Keith played by neophyte actor Robert Francis. A love story between Keith and his girl at home, May Wynn, is woven into the plot. In my opinion it is a weak element and a distraction. Some of the stronger elements involve humor stemming from the crew’s experience of Queeg’s erratic behavior. But for all of his extreme behavior, Bogart comes off as a strangely sympathetic character and the lack of a truly heroic character seems fitting and realistic. I think Wouk was capturing the actual experience of war. The fear and uncertainty that even the sane individuals felt humanizes the behavior of someone like Queeg. I think it will strike a chord for many people who have had to work together under crisis conditions.
Who will like this movie? I guess folks who like court room dramas are likely candidates. Even though it’s a WW II movie and mostly takes place on a war ship it’s not really a war movie. But it is about navy men and it does reflect the time when it took place. One interesting historical detail is the social reality of the place of black sailors in the US Navy of the time. The mess-boys are the cooks and all of them are young black men. They have an important plot element and I’m sure if Alec Baldwin and Dave Letterman ever review this movie on TCM they’ll denounce the rabid racism of the United States and the military then, now and forever. Luckily for all of you I just think it’s an interesting footnote on a different time.
In conclusion, to quote from Captain Queeg, the Caine Mutiny can be counted among “the greatest, I kid you not.”