Sunday, August 21, 2011
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920)
(March 1920, U.S.)
Just how many times has Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel been adapted to the screen, stage, television and even a '90's Broadway musical? Too many, probably; too many for me to have seen all of them. So, like DRACULA, I had the challenging task of picking and choosing which ones best speak to me as effective representatives of the story's original terrifying concept and intentions. So, keeping that in mind, let's begin with this silent black and white classic (there were three other silent version before this one, but I've never seen them. I don't even know if they still exist) starring John Barrymore (Drew's grandfather) as the famed doctor.
This legendary story of split personality, shows us Dr. Henry Jekyll, a kind and charitable man who believes that everyone has two sides, one good and one evil. Creating a powerful potion, his personalities are split and he's transformed into Mr. Hyde. That's when abbsolute havoc begins. It's important to note that physical characteristics are particularly key to this film and it's interesting to note that the early part of Dr. Jekyll's initial transformation into Mr. Hyde was achieved with no makeup, instead relying solely on Barrymore's artistic ability to effectively contort his face when necessary.
As a silent film, there is an odd, yet very effective creepiness that comes with not only the grainy black and white picture, but also the menacing organ music that accompanies it. Stare long and hard at Jekyll's transformed physical state as Mr. Hyde and dare to tell me you don't experience just a little bit of the so-called "hee-bee-jee-bees". If nothing else, Hyde's cone-shaped head (a physical characteristic I haven't seen in any other versions) will make you shiver just a bit. Only be sure you're watching this late at night with all the lights out. Anyway, it's for all these reasons that I've chosen this 1920 silent classic as my favorite film version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. Not that there aren't more (two, to be exact) to come...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Sir George Carew: "A man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying its impulses. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."