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James Sibley Watson,
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Dr. Pyckle, a respected British scientist, searches for the correct combination of chemicals for a powerful potion. Once he finds it, he tries it on himself. But instead of the wonderful effect the doctor had hoped for, the potion turns him into the diabolical Mr. Pride, a fiend who outwits police at every turn while scouring London for fresh victims -- of practical jokes. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Stan Laurel's "Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde" is flat-out hilarious. It's a perfect combination of concept, gags, and performance to create good comedy. As a formerly lost film this also makes it a rare example of something sought-after and highly touted that lives up to (and probably exceeds) expectations.
This film was released five years after the John Barrymore version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," which I watched the day before, but Stan Laurel interprets Barrymore's brilliant dramatic performance with a comic turn of equal quality. Presumably, though the direct source material was five years old, audiences would have been familiar enough with the Jekyll-and-Hyde story that there would not have been an actual need to have seen that particular version.
The gags are well-spaced and well-chosen here, getting laughs equally with the stylistic butchering of the Jekyll-Hyde story. What almost makes the film is the look of mischief of Mr Pryde's face as he scurries about the town committing trivial acts of wrongdoing. It's a few different executions of a similar joke, but I cracked up every time. The best moment of the short involves Stan's stealing a child's ice cream cone with a look of triumphant evil glee on his face.
"Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde" also boasts very funny title cards; there's a winning joke in virtually every one. In brief, I was laughing constantly through my viewing of this two-reeler, and I'm extremely glad it's been recovered and restored so we can enjoy it today.
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