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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although the film was a huge success, it did not save Paramount from bankruptcy. See more »
When Hyde first meets Ivy, he tells her he knows she lives in some pig sty on Baptin's Court. But later, a news item about Ivy identifies her address as Diadem Court. (The closed-captioning in the first scene actually reads "Diadem Court" despite what Hyde is heard saying.) See more »
You're a rebel, and see what it has done for you. You're in the power of this monster that you have created.
I'll never take that drug again!
Yes, but you told me you became that monster tonight not of your own accord. It will happen again.
It never will. I'm sure of it. I'll conquer it!
Too late. You cannot conquer it. It has conquered you!
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When speaking about horror films from the 30s, almost invariably the conversation moves around Universal Studios and the remarkable movies it released on that decade. However, Universal was not the only studio that released a horror classic, and while 1931 is often remembered as the year of Tod Browning's "Dracula" and James Whale's "Frankenstein", it was also the year of another horror classic that deserves a mention: Rouben Mamoulian's amazing version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". titled simply "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", the film was previously adapted with good results in 1920 with the legendary actor John Barrymore as the main character, however, Mamoulian's version is nowadays considered the definitive version of the novel and Paramount's answer to Universal's efforts in the horror genre.
Adapted by Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath, the film successfully translates the theme and mood of the novel although (like the previous silent version) does some changes to the plot. Still, the basic story is the tale of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Fredric March) a successful doctor who is convinced that he can isolate the evil in human's soul. As he drinks a potion he invents for this purpose, he sets free all the evil in his persona becoming Mr. Hyde, a brutish man who exists only to make evil. Now, Dr. Jekyll will have to face the consequences of letting Mr. Hyde out.
From the brilliant opening scene (one of the most amazing uses of subjective camera) the film becomes a captivating experience thanks to the very artistic style that Mamoulian gives to the film. A former Broadway director, Mamoulian responds to Universal's famous expressionist art direction with a brave and intelligent use of the camera. It's amazing that in this his third film Mamoulian already shows a domain of this new language, leaving an influential work still relevant to this day. The way the film is edited is also another of Mamoulian's impressive creations, as he plays with the subconscious via transparent merging of images, and a lot of sexual imagery (a bold move even for a pre-Hays code film).
Hoffenstein and Heath's adaptation of the story has now become the best remembered version of the novel, mainly because it translates remarkably well the story from paper (written from the point of view of one of Jekyll's friends) to visuals (making Jekyll the lead) with better results than the 1920s version. Just as brave as Mamoulian's bold use of sexual imagery is the sexual innuendo that fills the script, and is also one of the films that are not only horrific in imagery, but also in words. Hyde's words have a powerful psychological impact that more than 70 years later still give the chills when pronounced by March.
And this takes us to Fredric March's performance as both Jekyll & Hyde. While it's certainly difficult to beat the legendary Barrymore, March really succeeds in making an equally impressive performance by making his own interpretation of the character (his Hyde seems less sinister, but considerably more aggressive, primal and brutal), giving the final touch to Mamoulian's outstanding version of the novel. Another highlight is Miriam Hopkins' performance as Ivy Pearson, a prostitute that becomes the focus of Hyde's most violent actions. Hopkins really transmits the fear that this man creates and in a frighteningly believable performance becomes our eyes in the chaos. Rose Hobart and Holmes Herbert complete the cast, but none reach the high levels of perfection that both March and Hopkins achieve.
Being a fan of the silent version with Barrymore I was expecting a very disappointing film, so my surprise was huge at discovering that not only this film equals the first one in terms of acting, it's an overall superior film in many other aspects. Mamoulian's film is a jewel on the level of the more famous Universal's films, and possibly outshines them too as it's a proof that with inventive and creativity one can create a great film despite the low-budget. The 1931 version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" really lives up to the hype of being "the definitive version" of R.L. Stevenson's famed novel.
It's sad that Mamoulian was literally fired from the movie industry in the 60s, after being one of the most inventive (although less prolific) directors. Still, his knowledge as Broadway director and his enormous creativity played an important role in the films he directed, and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is probably among the top 5 of his career. 10/10. Definitely a must-see.
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