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Henry B. Walthall,
Francis J. Grandon
This is a hard film to rate. Compared to the later versions of this tale, this film comes up very short. However, compared to films made around 1913, it's pretty good. If you do watch it--just cut it some slack. That's because at 26 minutes it's a very long film for the time and its reliance on overacting instead of makeup for Mr. Hyde was a common device---one that John Barrymore also used a decade later. Why? Part of it is the tradition of the stage--where you couldn't stop a production to apply monstrous makeup. Another reason for doing this is that makeup was only in its very infancy in films. So, it was up to the actor (in this case, King Braggot) to act Hyde-ish. And, unfortunately, Braggot's version of Mr. Hyde was not great---as to make himself seem like Hyde, he doubles over as if he's suffering from a severe bowel obstruction! This version of Hyde loved beating the crap out of innocent people but the lewd aspects of his personality are not to be found. An interesting sanitized interpretation--but I think the perverted version of Hyde was closer to Robert Louis Stevenson's vision of the man.
Now it sounds as if I didn't like the film--and this isn't really the case. Apart from the odd portrayal of Hyde, I found it truly amazing that they stuffed so much into only 26 minutes--and they did a nice job of it. Good sets and acting were obvious. The only other complaint I have really is about ALL silents up until about 1920--and that is that they feature too few intertitle cards. Often, the actors acted and acted but nothing was indicated as to what they were saying or doing. Typical but a bit confusing.
My advice is to watch this and then perhaps watch the Frederic March version and compare them. Or, try the Barrymore silent version. Either way, there are other silents and talking versions you can compare it to--they must have made a bazillion of them!
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