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Experiment in Evil (1959)

Le testament du Docteur Cordelier (original title)
Mr. Joly, doctor Cordelier's lawyer, is amazed to discover that his client and friend leaves his possessions to a stranger, Opale, a sadistic criminal. He needs this man to prove that people's behavior can be adjusted at will...

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Teddy Bilis ...
Maître Joly
Sylviane Margollé ...
Jeune fille
Jean Bertho ...
Premier passant
Jacques Ciron ...
Deuxième passant
Annick Allières ...
Voisine
Dominique Dangon ...
Mère de la jeune fille
Jean Topart ...
Désiré
Michel Vitold ...
Docteur Séverin
Micheline Gary ...
Marguerite
Jacques Danoville ...
Commissaire Lardaut (as Jacques Dannoville)
André Certes ...
Inspecteur Salbris
Jean-Pierre Granval ...
Le patron de l'hôtel
Céline Sales ...
La première fille
Jacqueline Morane ...
Alberte
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Storyline

Mr. Joly, doctor Cordelier's lawyer, is amazed to discover that his client and friend leaves his possessions to a stranger, Opale, a sadistic criminal. He needs this man to prove that people's behavior can be adjusted at will...

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Genres:

Drama | Horror

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Details

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Release Date:

4 July 1960 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Experiment in Evil  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This TV program later had a theatrical release. See more »

Connections

Version of Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sometimes the best way to stay faithful to a novel is to change everything
17 July 2007 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Jean Renoir's Le Testament Du Docteur Cordelier is dismissed by many as a mere TV movie (it even begins with Renoir discussing the film in a television studio: around this time he regularly filmed introductions for TV broadcasts of his films), but despite being visually a little flat due to being shot quickly with multiple cameras both to save time and money and to allow the actors more freedom, it's an intriguing attempt to remove the over-familiarity which curses all other adaptations of its source material. It would be giving too much away to mention exactly which extremely famous novel it's based on (it's not even credited in the main titles), but despite being moved from Victorian Edinburgh to 50s Paris it's in many ways the most faithful screen adaptation to the original mystery structure of the novel. Of course, once you know the title any mystery is gone, so in a strange way changing the names, updating and relocating it is the only way to even attempt to preserve any element of surprise.

Some elements are more successful than others, and while it retains the all-important but oft overlooked front door/back door geography of the good Doctor's house, it's somewhat diminished by both entrances opening on respectable streets rather than occupying the borderline between the upper class streets and the slums. However, it is the only version that points out that far from being the victim of his good intentions, the doctor in question is in fact merely covering up his own very willing part in the crimes rather than trying to put an end to them: his only reason for wanting to end them is to end the pain that HE suffers rather than the pain that is inflicted on others. But the real triumph of the film is Jean-Louis Barrault's performance as Opale, a quite remarkable display of pure physicality offering a mass of twitches, swagger and curious movements that should skirt on the comic yet somehow combine with the character's arbitrary rage and purely opportunistic violence to create a disturbing portrait of malice that's a world away from the hypocritical and ultimately far more monstrous Dr Cordelier's public displays of rigid self-control. It may be a minor film, particularly in Renoir's canon, but it's a major performance that deserves to be much better known.


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