DOCTOR’S HORRIBLE EXPERIMENT, THE (LE TESTAMENT DU DOCTEUR CORDELIER) (aka: EXPERINENT IN EVIL) TV (director/writer: Jean Renoir; screenwriter: from the novel “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson; cinematographer: Georges Leclerc; editor: Renee Lichtig; music: Joseph Kosma; cast: Jean-Louis Barrault (Dr. Cordelier/Opale), Teddy Bilis (Joly), Sylviane Margollé (La petite fille), Michael Vitold (Doctor Séverin), Jean Topart (Désiré ), Gaston Modot (Blaise), Jacques Dannoville (Capt. Lardaut), Micheline Gary (Marguerite, nurse); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jean Renoir; Lionsgate; 1959-France-in French with English subtitles)
“An enjoyable and subversive parody on both B-film horror stories from the 1950s and mental health caregivers by legendary French director Jean Renoir.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An enjoyable and subversive parody on both B-film horror stories from the 1950s and mental health caregivers by legendary French director Jean Renoir (“La Marseillaise”/The Little Match Girl”/”Boudu Saved From Drowning”). It was made in black and white for French TV (using TV methods of filming, multiple cameras and with Renoir acting as TV host to introduce his film at the TV studio). The pic changes locations to contemporary Paris, as Renoir adapts Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Renoir also updates the novel by taking away a lot of the creakiness in the Stevenson story yet is still faithful to the spirit of it, as he keeps things ballsy and relevant.
A series of nasty attacks on women and children in the western suburb of Paris are traced to an odd criminal character named Opale (Jean-Louis Barrault), who was recently made the sole legatee of a respected and wealthy research psychiatrist named Dr. Cordelier (Jean-Louis Barrault). The lawyer Joly (Teddy Bilis), Cordelier’s trusted friend and lawyer, witnesses a twitching and prancing Opale turn on a defenseless 10-year-old girl walking alone at night on the street, as the pervert kicks her repeatedly and strikes her with his walking stick only to escape by running into Cordelier’s locked lab–where he possessed the key.
The priggish lawyer tries to help the police capture Opale, talk Cordelier into changing his will as a matter of ethics and meddles with the heated rivalry Cordelier has with his sneering hyperventilating fellow research scientist Doctor Séverin (Michael Vitold). Things cloud up further along moral lines when Joly learns that Cordelier and Opale are the same person, as the doctor experimented on himself with a potent chemical solution and created an evil monster (now saddled with an uncontrollable id). The result is that the uptight Cordelier has been freed of his repressions (which is viewed as a nightmare instead of a blessing, as most Freudians at the time thought it would be) to act sexually lewd and cruel to those who are weak (knocking down a cripple, was quite a sight).
The film’s best asset is Barrault’s dual performance as both good and evil characters. This was Barrault’s best performance since Children of Paradise.
REVIEWED ON 1/5/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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