The Testament of Dr. Cordelier (1959)

Genres - Science Fiction, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The Testament of Dr. Cordelier has some adherents who believe it is one of the finest adaptations of the Jekyll-Hyde story ever made, and there is some basis for that, mainly in the sensational central performance from Jean-Louis Barrault. Whatever one thinks of the film as a whole, it is hard to argue that Barrault's interpretation is anything less than stunning. The role is one that, even when done extremely well, tends to be uneven. The actor in question is usually noticeably more at home in one role than in the other; even if he is believable at both, one of them tends to have more weight than the other. But Barrault is totally at home in both guises, perhaps because this version recognizes that there is more of Hyde in Jekyll than the good doctor is willing to admit. The actor's performance commands attention throughout, and he is a force to be reckoned with. The movie as a whole, however, is somehow not as arresting as it should be; it ends up a setting for Barrault's performance, rather than having that performance be at the center of a masterpiece. Perhaps because he was working with a new TV-based technique, Jean Renoir's work here is not as compelling as it should be. It works, it makes sense, but it doesn't catch fire the way one expects it to.