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Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier

The Testament of Doctor Cordelier
Experiment in Evil / Das Testament des Dr. Cordelier / The Doctor's Horrible Experiment

France 1959
produced by
Jean Renoir
directed by Jean Renoir
starring Jean-Louis Barrault, Teddy Bilis, Jean Topart, Sylvanie Margollé, Michel Vitold, Jacques Danoville, André Certes, Jean-Pierre Granval, Céline Sales, Ghislaine Dumont, Didier d'Yd, Primerose Perret, Raymond Jourdan, Jaque Catelain, Régine Blaess, Gaston Modot, Jacqueline Frot, Monique Theffo, Claude Bourlon, Raymone, Francoise Boyer
screenplay by Jean Renoir, based on the novel The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Jekyll and Hyde

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Lawyer Joly (Teddy Bilis) sees a grown-up man beating up a little girl for no reason at all. He rushes to help the girl, and the man diosappears into a nearby house - that of Joly's good friend Doctor Cordelier (Jean-Louis Barrault). When he wants to warn his friend Cordelier though, he learns from Cordelier's servant Desiré (Jean Topart) that the intruder, called Opale, is a guest and patient of Dr Cordelier, who is allowed to come and go however he pleases ... which is shocking for Joly, because Opale was also intalled as Cordelier's sole heir a few days back - and Joly now thinks, Opale might just be after the inheritance ...

When Joly later has a talk with Cordelier, Cordelier not only denies that Opale is trying to get his inheritance, he also shields Opale from possible police investigations against him. But each night it seems, Opale goes on the prowl again, with each of his crimes being more atrocious. Finally, Joly manages to persuade Cordelier to pay a visit to their mutual friend Doctor Séverin (Michel Vitold) ... but before Cordelier can get there, Séverin is found dead, killed by Opale.

When the police investigates, more and more clues lead to Opale, but Cordelier still shields Opale and blocks the investigations, and nobody really understands why. Finally though, Opale is caught red-handed and pursued to Cordelier's house, where he locks himself in ... but he allows Joly in to make a confession: In fact, Opale and Doctor Cordelier are one and the same person, the good Doctor has once seen it necessary to create a serum to seperate the goodness, the benign traits of man from the bad, evil traits. But when he tested the serum on himself, it led to unexpected results ... because after taking the serum, he turned into an evil version of himself, who goes around hitting children, murdering people and the like. After the first encounter with his bad self, Opale, Cordelier wanted to abandon the whole project, but he quickly grew addicted to being bad, and took the serum again and again in ever higher doses ... and now, Cordelier/Opale is so addicted to the serum that, to turn him back into Cordelier, Opale would have to take a lethal dose. Joly tries to prevent him, insisting that he should pay for his crimes ... but to escape a life of misery, Opale takes it anyhow, and in death he turns back to Cordelier ...

 

If you haven't guessed it, Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier is a thinly disguised version of Rovert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, moved from Victorian London to modern day (1950's that is) Paris and concentrating on the philosophical (and the comical) aspects of the story rather than the horrific ones. As a result, the film isn't much of a horror flick (as director Jean Renoir never was and never wanted to be a horror director), but it raises some interesting questions, like who's really the bad guy of the story, Hyde/Opale, who was left without a conscience after an experiment gone wrong and now doesn't know any better, or Jekyll/Cordelier, the perfect benign man who can't stop himself from taking his serum though and in his good-guy-guise goes as far as to shield his other, evil self..

Now in all, it might not be Jean Renoir's best film, it might not even be the best Jekyll and Hyde adaptaiton, but it amnages to shed an interesting new light on an age-old story.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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