The great John Barrymore takes on the title characters in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of a tormented doctor who ventures into the unknown only to find his dark side. Directed by John S. Robertson and co-starring ... more »Nita Naldi, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is one of the all-time classics of silent cinema.« less
Not the first film version of the great Robert Louis Stevenson story, but one of the best. This version closely follows the 1887 play based on the story, rather than being a direct adaptation of the book itself. Dr Jekyll's fiancée's father is not the prude he is portrayed as in later film versions as he is the one who first introduces Jekyll to the "red light" district. This was done in order to convince Jekyll that indulging oneself is perfectly OK, if done in moderation. Jekyll likes it, but is afraid he will be controlled by the baser human drives creates and elixir in order to create two separate selves. And you know the rest.
KINO VS IMAGE!!!!!
larryj1 | AZ, USA | 06/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the great classics of silent films. The Kino edition has better overall picture quality and more special features, but is missing over 5 minutes of footage that is on the Image edition. This footage is missing from here and there during the film. I have both editions and have to prefer the Image disc since it is more complete with only a little less quality. Completeness and originality should always be the major factor. The Kino disc features an orchestral score and the Image disc features an organ score."
The Best Version of This Much-Done Movie
brunetteshock | Quincy, MA | 10/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Barrymore shows us all what true acting is all about! To see the heartthrob of the 20's with his dashing good looks to suddenly turn into a pretty scary looking creature was very unexpected to me! As some previous reviewers had mentioned, they say his make-up for Mr. Hyde was "laughable". NOT TO ME! You have to see this film yourself to truly understand that, back then, without all the computer-generated gimmicks we have now, this is just TRUE exceptional horror in its day! True, Mr. Barrymore relied mostly on his eyes and the evil grin to "get across his point" as Mr. Hyde, but it works!!! I first had seen this as an afterthought movie that was thrown at the end of a horror movie collection I had purchased some years ago for my VCR player. It was in terrible condition, as I assumed it would be for such an old movie, but the darkness and the graininess of the film just added to the horror of it completely! I have seen many, many versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but when I saw this version, it scared me to the core! Now I understand why John Barrymore was considered a classic actor of his time. He truly fits the bill of going from one extreme to the other, and in the end, isn't that REALLY what "acting" is all about??? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED but beware.......you will be scared!"
The Defining Version
B. Mccann | Balckpool, England | 01/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"1920 saw two further film versions of Jekyll & Hyde that could not have contrasted more; one polished, thoughtful and kept in period setting; the other a cheap, rushed derivative set in modern America to save money on sets and costumes. The economy class quickie was produced by Louis B. Mayer and featured Sheldon Lewis, best known as the Clutching Hand in many a movie serial such as The Perils of Pauline (1915). Sheldon's Hyde was described in the film's sub titles as "An Apostle of Hell" who begins his life of debauchery by snatching a passing lady's purse. Hyde's dastardly doings do get a little more ambitious, eventually earning him a date with the electric chair. But, as he fries, the trusty Thank-God-it-was-a-Dream cop out kicks in and Jekyll wakes up declaring "I believe in God! I have a soul..." The film closes with Jekyll safely escorting his fiancee to the opera
The audiences of 1920 could only be thankful for Paramount Pictures and their more seminal adaptation starring John Barrymore as both noble Jekyll and a very spider like Hyde. Screenwriter Clara Beranger expanded the romantic element by doubling Jekyll's sweetheart, Millicent, with a lust interest for Hyde; a sultry Italian temptress called Miss Gina whom Hyde shacks up in a Soho apartment and slowly sucks dry of all vigour - the spider and the fly. This externalisation allowed the sexual themes of the story to come more into the foreground and placed the hero between two woman who present different lures. On the one hand, there is the upper class virgin who is only sexually obtainable through the propriety of marriage. She is mirrored by the the lower class woman of easy virtue who exists in the dark underbelly of society; an area which a man like Jekyll would be seen to eschew, but in which Hyde positively revels.
The writer was also able to dispense with the customary Thank-God-it-was-a-Dream ending that afflicted previous screen outing and present Jekyll & Hyde as a real story. Beranger's revisionist structure actually owes more to The Picture of Dorian Gray than Stevenson's tale, particularly in the introduction of Jekyll's amoral mentor Sir George Carewe played by Brandon Hurst. The character of Miss Gina also owes some inspiration to Sibyl Vane, an actress who is seduced by Dorian Gray and later commits suicide. But Beranger's approach became the most well known interpretation of the Jekyll & Hyde story and also provided the model for the cinema's first sound take on the story in that followed in 1932, again courtesy of Paramount.
Silent Horror Classic Adaptation
Mr. Robinson | 10/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"By the year 1920, there'd already been several different film versions of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novella centered around duality. However, John Barrymore's take, directed by John S. Robertson, would become the best known silent adaptation of the tale. This was the one that put several plot devices on the map. For instance, it introduced the good girl, bad girl dichotomy that mirror Jekyll and Hyde's sense of desire for the pure and profane. It wasn't taken too far in this version but become more developed in the definitive 1931 Rouben Mammoulien version starring Fredric March. One element it did add which did not remain was a sort of Dorian Grey touch involving Jekyll's fiancee's father.
Dr. Henry Jekyll, as opposed to the fifty year old private chemist portrayed in Stevenson's original, is here reimagined as a young and idealistic philanthropist who works late hours tending to the sick in his ward. His fiancee's father, Sir George Carewe, a more worldly man, tempts him by taking him to an "not respectable" bar where eyeing the women, especially a dancer played by Nita Naldi. He is inspired by the proposition of freeing man's baser nature from his more pure one. And, with that, he concocts a very potion that unleashes Edward Hyde, here seen as a spidery and disgusting manifestation of Jekyll's lower instincts.
Hyde now indulges in all the pleasures he could not as Jekyll. However, the path of illicit pleasures soon leads to destruction as Hyde ruins the lives of whomever he comes into contact with, and eventually commits murder. Even so, Jekyll also loses control when the transformations become involuntary, and he goes to sleep as the doctor but awakens as Hyde.
Many of the adaptations depict Hyde's growing evil in various ways. Here, its particularly interesting as Hyde's evil is represented in two, but comprehensive aspects. For instance, Hyde is pictured, as previously mentioned, like a spider, with pointed albino head, and elongated fingers; literally "creeping up" on his victims. The effects of his evil are metaphorically portrayed as disease-like; contagious and infecting all of his victims. This is made more clear on the DVD essay accompanying the movie which says the film was making subtle comparisons of Hyde's evil power with syphilis, which had been a horrible disease famous in the latter part of the 19th century, and still very much so at the time the film was released. Hyde's victims appear pale and weak with dark circles under their eyes much like those infected with syphillis. Hyde even goes so far to compare one fresh faced girl of the night he plans for his own amusement, to another he's already made use of and left behind who is now worn and sickly. Jekyll himself begins displaying signs of the sickness with dark circles under his eyes. Therefore, Hyde is a spider-like ogre carrying disease and vampirically draining the life force from his victims, including Jekyll (in a famous dream montage, Hyde is pictured as a giant spider crawling on top of Jekyll and sucking the life out of him; this causes Jekyll to change to Hyde).
This is but one theme of the film, though. There is enough of the classic story for everyone to recognize. Disease metaphors aside, Hyde goes onto become quite a brutal killer. He beats one victim pretty severely with a walking stick, and stomps over a young child, both clearly echoing Hyde's brutality in the novel.
John Barrymore, though pretty over the top by today's standards, gives a bravura performance as Jekyll/Hyde, even going so far as to portray much of the first half of the transformation with no make-up. More would indeed be added later on. He would use the Hyde make-up later on in life for practical joke purposes for which he was legendary. The rest of the supporting cast is quite good, especially the fiancee's father, Sir George Carewe, played by Brandon Hurst who helps lead Jekyll down his dark "Dorian Gray" like road. And, more would be made of the good girl/bad girl staple in later films, but it clearly marks a turn in adding a sexual motivation for, and component of, Hyde's evil. The film was one of the first horror movies, and is a classic staple of the 1920's silent pictures. "