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George S. Fleming,
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James H. White
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Quite Unintentionally the First Universal Monster Movie
I remember seeing a documentary on classic horror once that said, during the silent era, there was something like fifty different adaptations of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" made. The most famous of which is, no doubt, the 1920 version starring John Berrymore. The 1913 version starring King Baggot is Not.
At only twenty-seven minutes, the movie condenses an all ready pretty short novel even further. It makes two of the biggest sins a silent film can make: Over-reliance on title cards and major overacting. Major plot elements, such as Hyde committing evil during the night and Jekyll loosing control of his transformation, are brushed over in intertitles. King Baggot overacts wildly, most notable during the transformation scenes. Hyde is portrayed, not through elaborate make-up or subtle acting cues, but by the actor smearing some shoe polish under his eyes, making a maniacal grin, and walking around crouched on his knees. As you can imagine the affect is far from menacing.
The film introduces a love interest, though she doesn't get much development. Hyde's acts of evil seem limited to picking a fight in a bar, jumping on random people in the street, and hiding behind trees. Overall, the film isn't very memorable or impressive. I suspect, if its public domain status hadn't allowed it on to the Youtubes and such, it would be totally forgotten.
Despite all of this, the film is, quite unintentionally, technically the first Universal Monster movie. It was co-directed and produced by Carl Laemmle, the studio's founder and father to the son mostly responsible for creating the Universal Monster brand. Therefore its inclusion here and probably the only reason anybody much talks about it anymore.
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