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.

****NOTE**** This is a slightly amended version of the original review.  One of my readers noted a spoiler in the original version of the review, so I’ve removed a few details to make it less of one.

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 well-known story with changed character 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 character of 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 source story.



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  2. Ooh… Dave… Isn’t stating right off that this is a ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ story sort of a BIG spoiler…? I mean, even though it does sound good the way you described it, if I already know that is the case I kinda don’t want to bother seeing it now. BUT… if I didn’t know beforehand, I would think that would add to the enjoyment of the film finding that out later on, right…? Just thought I’d mention it, you normally don’t do that, unless I am misunderstanding.

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