Based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Henry Jekyll believes that there are two distinct sides to men - a good and an evil side. He believes that by separating the two man can become liberated. He succeeds in his experiments with chemicals to accomplish this and transforms into Hyde to commit horrendous crimes. When he discontinues use of the drug it is already too late... Written by
Mark J. Popp <email@example.com>
It's amazing that years before Sigmund Freud was writing about stuff like the ego and the id, Robert Louis Stevenson, a great writer, but not a man of science, was able to grasp at what Freud later said about human behavior. There lurks in all of us a beast capable of doing great evil, that man's civilized self is forever trying to control.
Henry Jekyll, London society doctor, is engaging in experiments to prove that theory. He's a gentleman in every sense of the word, engaged to a proper English girl played by Rose Hobart here. It's funny, but in none of the adaptions of this story is it ever explained what could be in the potion that Jekyll concocts and drinks. But drink it he does and Jekyll becomes the simian like Mr. Hyde, evil incarnate itself.
Another reviewer pointed out the film is actually based on a play adapted from the novel and done originally on stage by Richard Mansfield in London. In that play the character of Ivy, a girl no better than she ought to be attracts the attention of Jekyll when he stops a man from assaulting her. He takes her up to her flat and she makes an effort to seduce him. He resists, but the beast within remembers.
This film becomes one of the first to deal with the phenomenon of stalking. Miriam Hopkins is a comely Ivy and Ivy herself is one of the most luckless characters ever created in fiction whether she was in the original story or not.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made movie audiences and critics start to take Fredric March seriously as actor. Up to then he had played a variety of lightweight parts on screen. Even so Paramount after this still insisted on still casting him in those roles after he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. When he got free of that studio contract March got the parts he was so capable of.
When MGM wanted to remake the film for Spencer Tracy they bought not just the rights from Paramount, but the film itself. It was not seen for many years and the VHS version I have of it has an MGM opening logo, but the cast at the end says Paramount. Kind of unusual to say the least.
I do disagree with the application of the term science fiction to this story. Hyde is a beast. But he's not something created by nature or man, nor is he an alien from another world. We all have a Hyde within us, it's how well we control him in our selves, and how well as a society we control the Hydes that would do us harm that deems whether we survive as a society or not.
Hyde is very human, with no superhuman powers and no created weaponry. Takes an extraordinary actor to play Jekyll and Hyde and do it well. Only the best take a crack at it like John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, Jack Palance, and Kirk Douglas. And March is one of the very best. See for yourself.
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