The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the earliest and most recognizable stories of the Mad Scientist genre. It has been remade dozens of times, even to the date of this particular iteration, but still continues to be a successful gimmick that can adapt to whatever time period it's being made in.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from 1941 isn't very different in story, but much more so in style. This version of the classic tale, has a larger emphasis on Doctor Jekyll and his philanthropy. This is a quality entry into the series. With some great acting. It just came out too soon after the last remake.
The story basically follows the path of the original storyline. Doctor Jekyll is a good man that believes that you can separate the good and bad sides of people. He tries his own potion that creates the diabolical Mr. Hyde. A methodical and calculating villain. Different from the versions that we had seen before. He is, of course, in love with a young woman and she falls victim to his darker actions.
This version of the tale focuses more on the terror of being held against your will. The Hyde character is a beastly, realistic psychopath. His sadistic nature is further explored as we watch him torturing and taunting his victims. The quality is top notch. As with the spectacular 1931 version, the camera is used to its fullest and most creative extent. Some shots in this movie are beautiful works of art that would be fit to be hung on a a wall. The inevitable transformation scenes are neat but simplistic. Lead actor Spencer Tracy wasn't a big fan of big make-up jobs and did a good job with its minimal use here. Tracy focuses more on facial expressions and body language to bring out the character of Hyde than in other renditions.
Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner all turn in some fantastic performances. Their acting really pushes this film above all of the others. While not outright scary, it is off putting to watch the way that Hyde treats his victims. I suggest this if you really want to explore this tale across a series of different films. While the silent era produced a few good versions, the most popular is definitely the '31 version from Rouben Mamoulian. However, this version is just as good.
Did ya know...
One night Spencer Tracy turned up at Clark Gable and Carole Lombard's second wedding anniversary party wearing his make up as Mr Hyde.
Due to the Hay's Code much of the film had to be watered down from the 1931 version. The character of Ivy Peterson had to be changed from a prostitute to a barmaid.
Spencer Tracy originally wanted a realistic approach, whereby Jekyll would commit violent deeds in a neighborhood where he was unknown after drinking alcohol or taking drugs. He was disappointed that the producers, having bought the screenplay from the 1931 version, insisted on a more traditional approach. He also said he felt his wig and make up as Hyde made him look "ridiculous".