The Testament of Dr. Cordelier (1959)

Article #696 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-9-2003
Posting Date: 7-9-2003
Directed by Jean Renoir
Featuring Jean-Louis Barrault, Teddy Bilis, Jean Topart

A lawyer investigates a strange will in which a psychiatrist leaves his fortune to a savage man known as Mr. Opale.

If it doesn’t occur to you fairly early on in the proceedings, you will finally figure out that this is nothing more than a retelling of the Jekyll-Hyde story with different names, updated to modern times and moved to Paris. Those who know the story from the original novel will probably figure it out right off the bat, as this version seems to follow the progression of the novel more closely than any of the other cinematic versions I’ve seen. Granted, once you’ve figured this out, you’ll know some of the plot twists. Nonetheless, I really liked this version of the story; in particular, I like the Hyde character (Mr. Opale). He’s almost a comic character here, from his bizarre jerky walk to the silly music that plays when he appears; however, his savage and impulsive brutality is indeed no laughing matter, and it’s almost scary to watch this guy terrorizing people, as he almost always takes on people obviously weaker than himself (he attacks a little girl and kicks the crutches out from under a cripple); he is definitely an unpleasant character. He also seems well thought out, and it is sometimes fascinating to try to figure out what is going through his mind. Actually, this may be one of my favorite takes on the Jekyll-Hyde story.

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