A narrator (Ray Milland) says that years before writing "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a story about good and evil at war within a man. On Christmas Eve, the ...
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A narrator (Ray Milland) says that years before writing "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a story about good and evil at war within a man. On Christmas Eve, the solitary Markheim watches the maid leave a shopkeeper alone in his shuttered store. Markheim knocks, explaining that he must buy a present for his fiancée. The avaricious shopkeeper looks away and Mannheim commits a violent crime. Now, he must find the man's money before the maid returns. At first he feels anguish and despair, then he searches. A stranger enters the room and offers a bargain. Does the stranger's identity matter, and will Markheim take the deal? The bell rings at the door: the maid has returned. Written by
Based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson, Ray Milland plays Markheim, a man suffering from poverty who decides to kill a local shopkeeper and rob him. After the murder and while searching for the money, a mysterious man (Rod Steiger) appears on the scene offering to help Markheim but there might be a price to pay. As the two men talk Markheim is guaranteed freedom for the crime but soon it becomes clear that the mysterious man is the Devil himself. At the start of the film we get Milland doing a brief narration where he discusses this story and mentions that it was written years before Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but the two share a lot of things in common. You can easily see the influences this story probably had on the later story by Stevenson as there's a nice discussion about what a murderer looks like as the shopkeeper allows Milland to enter his store simply because he looks respectable. This was an extremely well-made film that features a pretty darn good story, great performances and some tight direction by Zinnemann. The story itself asks some interesting questions about reason to commit murder, what to do to get away with it and if someone can live a normal life after they've killed someone. Milland's performance is right on the mark and what makes it work is that the screenplay asks so many questions and it's clear that Milland makes the character think them over. It's always hard to get into an actors mind but a great performance can allow this and Milland does just that. Steiger's role isn't nearly as flashy but I really enjoyed the way he played the evil one because he does it in such a peaceful, laid back way that you start to realize that the temptations the actor is bringing and the way he's playing the part is the same way that many actors played Jesus. The cinematography is top-notch, the score nice but I would say the ending is a tad bit of a letdown.
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