Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) Poster

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John Barrymore-The Definitive Hyde
Space_Mafune29 September 2002
This silent-era classic stars the one and only John Barrymore in the lead role. Barrymore's performance is clearly the one since most imitated by others. It is likely his performance as Hyde here that influenced later cartoon versions and what have you. The menacing stare, those creepy large hands held high ready to strike, the crouched over position, the evil intent in the eyes and the brow. Barrymore is simply fantastic and he pulls this off with much less make-up than many others. It's amazing how he can also pull off playing the tormented Dr. Jekyll-the complete opposite of Hyde perfectly and shows his tremendous range as an actor.
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"You're a mysterious young man, Dr. Jekyll."
classicsoncall17 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
As a medical doctor, Henry Jekyll (John Barrymore) maintains a human "repair shop" for the poor and destitute at his own expense. Generally acknowledged as too good to be true, Jekyll is challenged by socialite Sir George Carew to experience more of life for himself, before he marries Carew's daughter Millicent (Martha Mansfield). "Think what it would mean! To yield to every evil impulse - yet leave the soul untouched!"

After meeting night club dancer Gina (Nita Naldi), Jekyll becomes consumed by obsession, spending day and night in his lab developing a drug that will give him the freedom to explore his baser nature. Jekyll's early transformations are almost comic in their execution, he flails his body wildly and even falls down completely as his body transforms into the hideously deformed creature Mr. Hyde. As Hyde plunges deeper into vice, his evil nature threatens to overcome Jekyll's entire life. Jekyll even creates a will leaving his effects to the sinister alter ego in case he's unable to come out of one of his mutations.

A particularly well done scene explores Jekyll's psyche as he lies in bed contemplating his fate; he imagines a huge hairy spider crawling up on his bed and bonding with his own body. Symbolically it cements the viewers understanding of Jekyll's transformation into a creature of evil and monstrous intent.

As Sir George confronts Jekyll, he changes into the most gruesome countenance of Hyde yet, and beats Sir George to death. Without the drug that will keep him normal, he's no longer able to control his transformations. Despondent, he takes his own life, or should I say, Mr. Hyde kills Dr. Jekyll to put an end to the reign of terror in his Soho neighborhood.

At times over the top, John Barrymore's performance is well presented, his portrayal leaves one with an appreciation for his art and his interpretation of the John Louis Stevenson character. Martha Mansfield is demurely pretty as the pining lover who patiently keeps her love for Dr. Jekyll alive, even though she has no idea what a monster he has become. Though a silent film with occasional word screens, one has no trouble in following the details of the story to it's dramatic conclusion. The only mitigating factor for the print I viewed was the musical score that at times did not match the on screen drama, seeming instead to be more upbeat than it's subject matter.
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Adaptations and Alterations
Cineanalyst4 September 2005
Through countless adaptations, including movies, the gist of Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is familiar to those who have never even touched the novella. The doppelgänger, or doubles, theme of its battle between the good and evil within oneself are shared heritage, even though the Victorian age it was set in, the suspicions of invention and science and some of the psychological notions have since passed. This 1920 filmed version, the first highly regarded one, presents the story as it has been most commonly handed down: the narrative is simplified, removing the original mystery, and it takes the perspective of Dr. Jekyll, reducing the role of Mr. Utterson.

There are some interesting parts to this adaptation, especially when comparing it to the later 1931 and 1941 versions. The competing beliefs between Jekyll and Dr. Lanyon are well rendered, as are those between Jekyll and Sir George, who is, apparently, based in Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Additionally, the rationale behind Jekyll's experiment is altered more illogical by concerning it with one's soul, instead of the hypocrisy of the two-faced upper classmen who present themselves respectably for the public but also want to visit the prostitutes at night.

Anyhow, for better or worse, John Barrymore is restrained (considering the role and the film era). There's an odd giant spider nightmare in this one, too. The best aspect of this version, I think, is its horror atmosphere, with the studio sets of the fogy, lamp-lit London slums and even the detailed interior designs add something--production values that make this early entry stand out. Barrymore contributes to this, especially with the makeup to create his deformed Hyde that could rival Lon Chaney's creations.

To see a major point of difference between the three major Hollywood adaptations, as well as an indication of Hollywood's evolution and how this 1920 version stands out, compare Barrymore's horrific and grotesque Hyde with that of Fredric March and Spencer Tracy: notice how Hyde becomes easier on the eyes with each subsequent decade.
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Genuinely frightening
ellkew5 January 2003
I have not seen this film for quite some time though I can always conjure up the face of John Barrymore as Mr.Hyde. Bent double with hideous pointed features and spider-like hands he is still truly frightening after all these years. When will producers understand that effects are no match for a talented actor with only himself the clothes on his back and make-up. Barrymore distorts himself is the same manner as Lon Chaney performed and conjures up the dark side of Jekyll's personality. A chilling film that seeps into the mind and is still the benchmark film version for Stevenson's classic tale.
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John Barrymore's Double Feature or The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
lugonian4 November 2003
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (Paramount, 1920), directed by John S. Robertson, ranks the best known silent screen adaptations from the famous 1886 story by Robert Louis Stevenson and the 1897 stage play starring Richard Mansfield. Featuring the then unlikely John Barrymore, a matinée idol better known as "The Great Profile," this early horror film features the young actor to good advantage in portraying two entirely different characters in one motion picture. Those familiar with the Stevenson story, especially with its latter remakes during the sound era, whether starring Fredric March in 1931 (for which he won an Academy Award as best actor) or Spencer Tracy in 1941 (a very good film but often dismissed due to its miscasting) the story itself has its alterations.

Set in 19th century England, Henry Jekyll (John Barrymore), "an idealist and philanthropist, by profession a doctor of medicine," spending his time not only conducting experiments in his laboratory attached to his home, but treatinghis patients at a free clinic for the poor at his own expense. He's engaged to Millicent Carewe (Martha Mansfield), but their relationship appears to be mainly platonic. Arriving late at a dinner gathering at the Carewe home, Sir George Carewe, (Brandon Hurst), Millicent's father and Jekyll's mentor, soon becomes Jekyll's evil influence when he suggests the possibilities of man living by his instincts, yet having another side to his nature. Carewe later accompanies Jekyll to a London music hall where they are not only surrounded by a class of patrons beneath their status, but watch a flirtatious young dancer named Gina (Nita Naldi) perform. "For the first time in his life, Jekyll had awakened to the sense of his baser nature." Spending days and nights in his lab with his experiments, Jekyll, after drinking down his invented formula, soon transforms into his evil self. Becoming the uncontrollable person he names Edward Hyde, Jekyll's evil self begins a relationship with the sultry Gina, eventually making her life miserable. Hyde goes on a murderous rampage, taking control over Jekyll's immortal soul. Jekyll's experiment gets the better of him when he keeps changing into the evil Hyde against his will, returning to his gentler self through an antidote, becoming a recluse and spending more time away from Millicent. When Jekyll's antidote supply runs dry, he tries to fight the urge of evil. After murdering a child of the streets in the poor district of town, and later Sir George who witnessed the evil change in his future son-in-law, Jekyll realizes that he's unable to undo his evil deeds, and suffers more as he tries to prevent himself from making Millicent his next victim.

Supporting Barrymore in the cast are Charles Lane as Doctor Richard Lanyon; Cecil Clovelly as Edward Enfield; Louis Wolheim as the music hall proprietor; and George Stevens as Poole, Jekyll's butler.

Produced shortly before what future star Lon Chaney would have achieved in a role such as this, Barrymore's performs his most memorable moments during his transformation scenes. Every transformation captured on film shows the viewer a more hideous manifestation of Jekyll's other self. Quite theatrical to say the least, but what's amazing is Barrymore's constant jerking of his body with his hair flopping about before the closeup of that hideous facial expression, which must have been quite intense for 1920 audiences. It's been reported that Barrymore changed into the evil Mr. Hyde without the use of makeup, unlike Chaney, who would have done his transformation similar to Fredric March's 1931 sound version, looking more like a hideous animal than a grotesque human creature. For Spencer Tracy's 1941 performance, like Barrymore, he's still in human form but his facial gestures appear inhuman. More added touches of evil include Jekyll's somewhat pointed head as well as close up of Jekyll's hand becoming a withered claw. Something worth noting is one where Jekyll sleeps in his bed and imagines a ghostly giant spider crawling upon him. Because of Barrymore's "great profile" image and matinée idol reputation, the camera takes full advantage in his numerous profiled closeups, yet this was the film that firmly establish Barrymore's movie career.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE became one of the final thirteen movies aired on public television's THE SILENT YEARS (1971) as hosted by Orson Welles. Accompanied by an organ score by Gaylord Carter, the film runs at length to about 62 minutes. In later years, the silent version to DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was distributed on video cassette, with the print shown on THE SILENT YEARS released through Blackhawk Video in the 1980s. At present, the length of the movie varies. It could be as long as 75 minutes or more, depending on the projection speed. Shorter prints could be the possibility of a deleted sequence or two taken from reissue copies. For the Blackhawk edition, a sudden cut is noticeable as Millicent (Martha Mansfield) is seen sitting sadly alone, longing for her fiancé, followed by an immediate cut showing Millicent, surrounded by some people, running happily up the stairs with a letter clasped in her hand. Besides JEKYLL AND HYDE's availability on video, it's also been recently distributed on DVD.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE consisted of several earlier American-made versions (1912, 1913, and another in 1920 to compete with the Barrymore film), but for whatever copy is available for viewing, this 1920 production featuring Barrymore is the only easy access for viewing. Out of circulation on the TV markets since the 1970s, it finally resurfaced on Turner Classic Movies October 24, 2004, as part of its annual Halloween fright feast. The print with the Gaylord Carter organ score has circulated on TCM until its March 6, 2011 presentation consisting a new orchestral score composed by Al Kryszak that's one I would not recommend after listening better scores in the past. (***)
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Demon drink
Spondonman6 May 2004
I'm afraid this is my favourite film version of the tale. I say afraid because I think all the versions following this were technically better, but I still come back to this one. It's faults are legion, mainly from the technological standpoint, and you can also sometimes shake your head at the acting talents displayed, but the atmosphere of the film as a Victorian melodrama is unbeatable. The age of the film itself actually helps in this case (in these digital times), with plenty of blurred smoky foggy images to contemplate. As in the case of Hitchcock's 39 Steps, I preferred the film to the book.

Barrymore/Hyde's convulsions can be mirth inducing, but you can't argue with the fact that if you saw him in real life you'd cross the road to avoid him. Watch his expression after he kills Carew!

This DVD version ran a sedate b&w 82 minutes - after a lifetime of watching a tinted 59 minuter it took some getting used to, and the music was totally unsympathetic to the action too. Therefore the next time I trot this out it really will be silent! But well worth watching seminal stuff especially if you're interested in seeing the best film (that survives anyhow) from 1920.
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An excellent silent, but I still prefer the Frederic March version
planktonrules22 January 2007
My above comment is NOT because I dislike silents--in fact, I have probably reviewed more silent films than just about anyone on IMDb. No, this is just a case where the later version is just more interesting--probably due to its "Pre-Code" sensibilities that gave a lot more psychological depth to the story. However, none of the versions I have yet seen really come close to the quality of the original book--a common problem when you adapt classic stories to the screen.

This is a very famous horror film starring John Barrymore. I have heard and read raves about his performance and how great he was without the use of significant amounts of makeup. Although I love Barrymore, I really don't agree and think he overacted. Now this didn't ruin the film--for a silent it's still very good. It's just that other silent horror films such as NOSFERATU or THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA are just better and the acting is a bit more restrained. However, despite this, the sets are good and action just fine, so this would still be a decent film to watch.

By the way, there are MANY versions of this film since it's in the public domain. I have a videotape with no accompanying music (yuck) and got a DVD from the library with BAD organ accompaniment. If it's available, try to find one with a better score--the music I heard was just very flat and uninspiring.
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The creeping horror.
Boba_Fett113813 September 2006
This is one of the earliest (but not the earliest) movie version of the famous story of Jekyll & Hyde, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who also wrote the novel Treasure Island, among other works. It's one of the best movie versions but at the same time also probably the least known. Movies from the '20's don't really reach a wide audience. People probably only know the '31 and '41 versions of this movie. A shame, since lots of '20's deserve some more recognition from a wider audience. They're artistic, style-full and overall also well written and impressive. The images themselves had to be speaking for itself and had to be impressive of course since the images basically were the only tool to tell the story and all its emotions with. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is one of those '20's movies that deserves more credit and fame than its currently getting.

The movie is very well made and the story is extremely solid written and features some interesting elements. The way Dr. Jekyll is torn between his evil and good side is brought effectively to the screen. The movie is basically about the battle between good and evil, only this time set into the mind of one man. It is mainly due to the solid written story that this premise works out so well and effective.

Of course also the acting helps a lot to tell the story with. Conform '20's style, every actor goes over-the-top in his performance, with exaggerated movements and facial expressions. Especially Cecil Clovelly goes way too over-the-top in his role. Also of course John Barrymore does this, especially when he is turned into Mr. Hyde. But nevertheless every actor feels well cast and plays his or her role with lots of profession. The still very young looking John Barrymore is good in his role as both Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde and he plays both roles convincing, despite going a bit too much over-the-top at moments.

The movie only features a bit too many unnecessary characters that don't add enough, or anything at all to the story. On top of that there also are some needless sequences, which don't seem to serve a purpose. Such as the Italian historical sequences, told by Gina. Yes, it serves a purpose later for the story but it could had easily been done in a more simple and shorter way, to make the movie flow better.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is its look. The sets look impressively detailed, although the entire movie is obviously filmed on a stage. Also the costumes and make-up are good, as are the impressive looking early special effects, which also adds to the horror of this movie.

Yes, as an horror movie this movie also works well. It's atmosphere feels dark and the Mr. Hyde character makes sure that the movie always remains unpredictable as well as both tense and scary.

The ending is very well written and also works very effective. It's well thought out and handled and provides the movie with an impressive and memorable ending, which might also come quite unexpected, since it's not an happy one.

A must-see for the fans of the story and horror fans in general.


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John Barrymore at his best!
Ken-14114 January 1999
Nearly everybody has seen the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in one of the more modern versions, but nobody has ever portrayed it as successfully as John Barrymore did. This movie, a silent classic, has amazing special effects for its day. Specifically I refer to the metamorphosis of Dr. Jekyll. You will literally not recognize or believe that the same actor playing Dr. Jekyll is also playing Mr. Hyde. The make-up, the lighting, and Barrymore's excellent acting give you the feeling that this is truly a different, darker, more evil man. Berrymore completes the transition from clean-cut Doctor to dementedly violent madman so naturally that you almost forget it's not real. You have to see this! It'll still scare you after all these years!
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Holds Up Incredibly Well
ReelCheese22 October 2006
Early silent version of the classic horror tale holds up incredibly well more than eight decades later. John Barrymore is the well-to-do doctor who concocts a serum that allows his dark side to find a home in his alter ego. But how long can this double identity survive before one of the personalities absorbs the other?

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE works as well as it does thanks in no small part to Barrymore, the early screen legend. His amazing performance transcends the lack of sound, scratchy picture and obvious limitations. He is the definitive Dr. Jekyll and a suitably creepy Mr. Hyde. Barrymore's co-stars more than hold their own, proving that acting is an inherited talent, not something that is necessarily developed through years of schooling. Brandon Hurst in particular stands out as the upperclassman Sir George Carew.

The film also benefits from its strong script and dialog, though much of the credit there must go to Robert Louis Stevenson, who authored the book on which it is based. What could have easily been a mediocre man-turned-monster outing is instead smart, thought-provoking and imaginative. Director John S. Robertson is to be highly praised.

I went into DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE prepared to cut it heaps of slack given its 1920 production date. But not once did I have to award it brownie points for trying. This is a screen gem from which the Hollywood of today could learn some valuable lessons.
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randybigham5 December 2001
That this famous film version of the Stephenson classic, perhaps the first really great American thriller, was enormously aided by John Barrymore's extraordinary abilities is universally appreciated. Nearly forgotten now, however, is the fact the movie's success was also due to the exceptional beauty, marvellously captured, of Ziegfeld Follies showgirl Martha Mansfield in one of her first leading screen roles, that of the ingenue love interest to Barrymore's Dr. Jekyll incarnation.

The picture's period setting provided the ideal backdrop for Mansfield's delicate blonde looks and delightfully coy demeanor. It also gave the budding favorite ample excuse to wear the romantic chiffon creations of the couturiere "Lucile" (Lady Duff-Gordon), which are seen to best advantage in the dinner party scenes. To coincide with the release of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (March 28, 1920), Martha Mansfield was sufficiently publicity-savvy to pose in her latest Lucile gowns for a double page photo-spread in "Harper's Bazaar" (March 1920).

Mansfield's popularity in the Paramount horror film lead her to be chosen by producer David Selznick to succeed Olive Thomas as the studio's top star upon the latter's shocking death in Paris. Tragically Mansfield was destined for a similar end, for only four years later she died of burns sustained when her costume caught fire while shooting a movie on location in Texas.
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A Silent Masterpiece
Hitchcoc14 March 2006
This is one of those movies I watch every so often. I was impressed with it the first time I saw it. It wears very well. It showed that what many find laughable in silent film can be quite dramatic and well done. The acting here is subdued and very persuasive. John Barrymore carries off the transitions to Hyde very well. He uses his body and his face to made this work. An old coat, a slouch hat, and a distorted face do the job. There is also the famous scene where Jekyll must force himself to drink the potion that will release his evil side. He moves toward it and then away; finally, he drinks it. Some find his gyrations and anguished expressions to be a bit much, but we have to remember what actors were trying to project at this time. Much of what takes place is in front of the apartment of Jekyll. Eventually, the evil takes dominance and Henry can no longer control what he is becoming. This is when he begins to lose his immortal soul, his greatest fear. If you see this, you will be captivated by what a good story it is and what a good actor John Barrymore was.
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The creepiest Hyde of them all!
Coventry23 November 2005
This is one of the earliest of many, many (better say endless) Jekyll & Hyde adaptations, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. The main reason why this version pales in comparison with the celebrated 1931-version is because the narration of Robert Louis Stevenson's story never at one point rises above the basics. The film opens terribly slow and you have to wait long and patiently before it gets to the essence of Stevenson's legendary writings, namely Dr. Jekyll's growing obsession to bring out the dark side that hides in ever human being. However, and this is truly remarkable, off ALL the Jekyll & Hyde movie-versions I've seen thus far, this 85-year-old piece of cinema strangely brings forward the spookiest Hyde-monster ever. In fact, John Barrymore simply dominates the whole movie and he clearly enjoyed the sequences where he turns into the malicious and long-fingered monster. The transformation scenes are amazingly uncanny for their time and the camera-work is pure Expressionism. With a slightly more creative approach of the story-material, this could have been the greatest silent horror film ever.
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Barrymore's Hyde is a beaut!
funkyfry9 October 2002
This 1920 production was the work of Famous Players (later Paramount) and the studio's early style of imitating a stage look limits this film visually and in terms of its acting, which is not subtle. However, Barrymore delivers with panache and flamboyance as the dual personality doctor. His makeup and mannerisms as Hyde are really grotesque, providing reason enough to watch the film. The sets are also very well done; you can almost see the slime of grunge coming off the pedestals and door posts, very similar to the look of Universal's later "Phantom of the Opera" w/ Lon Chaney. But what with the static camera, this film comes off as quite a sleep inducer, and seems a lot longer than it is. Still, wroth seeing for Barrymore's performance and excellent makeup.
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Run and Hyde
CuriosityKilledShawn31 October 2010
I'd never seen a silent movie in a theater until last night. The Usher Hall in Edinburgh screened this 90-year-old horror to a large, nearly sold-out, audience with live music. It was a digital projection made from a composite print that hadn't been restored. The film was full of nicks and dirt and scratches, but it didn't bother me, it added to atmosphere I guess.

John Barrymore (Drew's granddad) plays Dr. Jekyll, a man who has devoted his life to good. His friends tease him on his purity and encourage him to let his hair down once in a while, perhaps with a hooker or two. Instead of taking this sound advice Jekyll creates a potion that turns him into Mr. Hyde, a monstrous character who is supposed to represent man's inner beast.

The "horror" didn't really have much of an effect on me. Hyde doesn't do anything considerably evil, but I did find him creepy to look at. The performances are all about theater and overacting in the absence of dialogue and the actors did a good job in this regard. The photography and set design was impressive too but rather undermined by the decrepit nature of the composite print.

Though we should be grateful that the film still exists in good enough condition to screen publicly. This was the 3rd screen adaptation of Robert Lewis Stevenson's novella, the first two have been lost and will likely never be seen again.

I guess you could say that they are "Hyding".
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A Stylistically Dated Landmark of Silent Film
gftbiloxi22 March 2005
Directed by John S. Robertson and starring matinée idol John Barrymore in the dual title role, 1920's DR. JECKYLL & MR. HYDE is sometimes described as the "first American horror film." That description is more than a little problematic, but whether it was or it wasn't, DR. JECKYLL AND MR. HYDE certainly put the horror genre on the Hollywood map.

Whether or not you happen to like this particular version of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson tale will depend a great deal upon your tolerance for the change in acting styles that has occurred between the silent and the modern era. Some silent stars--Lillian Gish, Ramon Novarro, and Louise Brooks leap to mind--were remarkably subtle and worked to create a new style of acting appropriate to the screen, but most actors played very broadly. John Barrymore, considered one of the greatest actors of his day, is among the latter, and was noted for his larger-than-life performances on stage. He brings that same expansiveness to the screen, where it inevitably feels "too big" to the modern viewer.

At the time, Barrymore's transformation into the evil Mr. Hyde was considered shocking in its realism, but today these celebrated scenes are more likely to induce snickers than thrills--as will much of Hyde's make-up, which seems excessive to the modern sensibility. Even so, there are aspects of the film which survive quite well, scenes in which one is permitted a glimpse into the power this film once had. For Barrymore's Hyde is, for all his bizarre ugliness, a remarkably seductive creature--and Barrymore uses his hands and eyes in a remarkable way. One feels the sexual pull as much as one feels the revulsion.

The 1920 DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE is available in several VHS and DVD releases. Some of these are quite good, but I generally recommend the Kino version, which offers a good picture, good soundtrack, and several interesting bonuses. Although other releases may seem attractive in price, it's been my experience that you generally get what you pay for.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, reviewer
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Has Just About Everything You Could Have Asked For
Snow Leopard20 January 2006
This has just about everything you could ask for in a silent screen version of the classic story "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". John Barrymore was a fine choice to play the dual role, and the detailed production is capped off by special visual effects that are very good for 1920. The mood is built up slowly and effectively from the beginning, and a good supporting cast helps out, especially Martha Mansfield and Nita Naldi as the two very different women who are affected by the doctor's bizarre experiment.

One of the challenges involved in filming the story at the time would have been the difficulty of communicating Stevenson's very interesting thoughts and themes about the two contrasting sides of human nature. Although of necessity much of this is communicated here with the use of inter-titles, Barrymore's performance (particularly as the doctor) and the visual effects are also often used to emphasize the key ideas.

Barrymore must have enjoyed playing the role, especially the part of Hyde, and the detailed makeup job on Hyde makes him look hideously sinister. But the part of Jekyll, though less flamboyant and less eye-grabbing, probably demanded even more skill, in order to depict his descent into temptation and his torment afterward.

This version also has a period look and feel to it that fit in very well with the story. There have been many other movie versions of the popular story, and there are several good ones to choose from, but this one can still stand with just about any of them.
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A very effective silent film of a classic
TheLittleSongbird17 September 2011
The story itself is classic status, with an iconic titular character that is been imitated many a time but rarely equalled and a story that still chills me to the bone every time I read it. This 1920 silent film is very effective. For my money the best Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the 1931 film with Fredric March(I was disappointed in the 1941 film with Spencer Tracy personally). This still doesn't stop me from really liking this though. Some of it is rather slow, and not helped by some sequences that could've been shorter or excised. However, the costumes, sets and photography are wonderful and not at all dated, all the pivotal scenes are done with the correct atmosphere- true the transformation sequence is overdone slightly but it is also quite scary- and the ending doesn't disappoint either. The direction is skillful, and John Barrymore is superb and genuinely frightening especially with the eyes and the hands. Overall, very effective. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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The Beast Within
bkoganbing2 January 2016
I've always thought that the popularization of Sigmund Freud's theory of the ego and the id helped directly with the popularity of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. Nowhere will you see it better expressed without voice than by John Barrymore in the silent screen version of the classic.

In fact no player since Richard Mansfield who originated the acting role on stage was better acclaimed than Barrymore up to that time. Even without the use of his magnificent vocal instrument along with some superb makeup he carries off both the decent scientist Jekyll and the beast within he calls Hyde. No accident Stevenson chose that name. Hyde is something we do with that part of our nature.

This is a short feature film for its time, still all the elements of the story are contained. The women in Jekyll/Hyde's life are Marian Mansfield as the decent girl he's engaged to and Nita Naldi as the Music Hall entertainer who Hyde tortures beyond endurance.

One of John Barrymore's best silent films. Do not miss this version of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
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zpzjones9 June 2006
I find it interesting that this classic & 'nearly' definitive motion picture of Robert L. Stevenson's short novella, STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL & MR HYDE was made in Long Island New York financed by Paramount/Famous Players-Lasky. Thus it's not 'really' a Hollywood movie in the literal sense. The financial cord of Paramount, as with all of the big studios, was also situated in New York City. However the legend of this film has come down through the decades intact withstanding it's comparison to later versions of which it undoubtedly influences.

How personal this film must have been to John Barrymore. It seems to have been more than an assignment for him. He brought plants from his apartment to use in the film, he transported sets & costumes from one of his hit plays to be filmed in a flashback sequence, he was miming a story that had been done by the great stage actor Richard Mansfield whom was acquainted with his late father Maurice Barrymore. Interesting enough Barrymore would film another great Mansfield stage success four years later, BEAU BRUMMEL, which was Barrymore's first truly Hollywood made film. One wonders whether the choice to cast Martha Mansfield as Jekyll's love interest had anything to do with her name being Mansfield. There has never come up any evidence that she was related to Richard Mansfield but her name on movie theater marquees for the film must have looked familiar to older movie goers at the time who remembered the great theater actor who died in 1907 and never lived to film even a primitive version of DJ&MH himself. It must have been a good selling point. So John Barrymore as well as the Drew-Barrymore theatrical clan must have known Richard Mansfield on an intimate level at one time or another. I've always counted this film & JB's performance as an homage to Richard Mansfield and the acting profession in general. Perhaps, though it is not on record, a young JB might have seen Mansfield on stage doing Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.

The film's directorial credit is officially given to John S Robertson and writing credits to Clara Beranger(Wm DeMille's wife) but certainly J.Barrymore added touches here and there to spark up the production such as the above mentioned items he brought or transported to the film set. And also JB's winning portrayal at the time on the Broadway stage as Richard the 3rd performed at night while he filmed DJ&MH during the day. The make-ups for Richard the 3rd & Mr Hyde are strikingly similar when viewing photographs of JB as the two characters. Hyde, while favoring Richard, is truly the more severe of the two roles, and needed to be to put the character over on film. Another plus this film has is that it is made closer to the 1886 timeline of Stevenson's Victorian novella than the later feature length productions of 1931, 1941 and on. The sets where Hyde cavorts look nothing but like an inner London Victorian slum. Also some of the sets where Dr Jekyll has dinner with his elitist friends are accurately Victorian.

Director Robertson along with cameraman Roy Overbaugh keep the production flowing along especially when Hyde is on the screen. The first transformation is a classic, and pretty well known by historians & silent movie buffs. For those who haven't seen the movie I wont disclose no spoilers about the first transformation. Later transformations are accomplished by cameraman Overbaugh with stop-motion-photography and some very smooth double exposures such as in the spider-on-bed sequence. And also some good acting from JB.

Lastly if the original music score could be resurrected and performed with the film today, then a close approximation as to what 1920 audiences saw & heard could be experienced by today's audiences. Most home video copies put accompanied music or awfully scored music that is wrong for the film. Some video releases, wisely don't put any music score on the video which oddly forces your attention to the movie.
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Desire and Repression
Teebs29 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This 1920s version of Stevenson's famous novel "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" has flashes of brilliance, particularly in John Barrymore's portrayal of Mr Hyde, the depraved doppelganger of uptight scientist Dr Jekyll.

The transformation sequences are not as technically complex as in versions to come, but Barrymore does a good job at twisting his features grotesquely before a dissolve into full make-up occurs. What is striking and quite surprising is that unlike the modern depictions of Hyde in films such as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (and also it's graphic novel original) as a huge, muscular Hulk-like creature or even the were-wolf like creatures in later versions, here he is more akin to the ratlike Nosferatu memorably played by Max Schreck in Murnau's 1922 classic. This is fitting as Mr Hyde is not a literal monster, but the manifestation of the id.

What is quite surprising, although this may be very naive on my part, is the way the film deals with this idea of Jekyll's suppressed sexual and hedonistic desires. Jekyll creates Mr Hyde with the help of science in order to be able to frequent the bawdy dance halls and back street bars and brothels which he can't do as Jekyll. Hyde, like Nosferatu, exudes a primal sexuality shown in one scene where he seduces two prostitutes in a bar, maybe hinting at some of Jekyll's repressed fantasies. I was surprised just how clear this was in the film, although I think Hollywood censorship began well after this era.

Visually, there aren't many exceptional moments, though the London streets of Mr Hyde's world are suitably murky. I did like the way the opening title cards introduced each character separately as they entered the story, complete with the actor's name, and many of the title cards had expressive pictures surrounding them which complemented the story. The supporting cast is pretty average, although Martha Mansfield is suitably pretty as Jekyll's beloved. Worth a look as an example of early American horror.
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John Barrymore IS the special effect, and for a great story.
secondtake20 February 2010
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

Don't let the flat beginning to the movie turn you off. Once Barrymore begins taking on both roles (Jekyll and Hyde), with the famous first transformation about 27 minutes into the film, it only gets better and better. The fear within him, his inability to cope, the hiding and general mayhem, and the gradual awakening of the good doctor's friends builds to a terrific second half.

It's silent, yes, but it doesn't need too many intertitles. The lighting and sets are really nice, there is a lot of solid, parallel editing, and the results both in the narrative and in the spatial construction of the film from set to set is complex and sophisticated.

Look for a classic (and simple) use of warm toned and blue toned sections of film, as characters move inside and out (inside is yellowy as if from lamplight). This not only adds mood, it helps you keep track of where you are. The locations are limited--no roaming the streets of old London here--but they work to advance the ideas.

John Barrymore's performance is energetic and fearless. The famous first film appearance of 1920s vamp star Nina Naldi is a landmark, too, though she appears only briefly. The rest of the cast is fine, though in some cases noticeably stiff. Director John S. Robinson is not known for any landmarks besides this one, and even this was not the first adaptation of Stevenson's short novel (that was apparently a 1910 Danish version). But the stakes were raised here, only to be matched and bettered, overall, by the Moumalian version of 1931, an early sound movie with Frederic March in the main role. John Barrymore was a ham, at heart, and this was a role where you didn't have to worry about overdoing the part, so the 1920 version is pretty amazing just to see him act full tilt.

The meaning of the story goes beyond the duality of human nature, and the inability to control pure evil. Toward the beginning, Dr. Jekyll is accused of being a studious bore, and he needed to have a life. The only way to win over temptation was to fall into it, said a friend, and this is the crux of it, really, the idea that you need to follow your own sense of good. Peer pressure never had such fast, awful effects as it did on the tender hearted, experimentally minded young doctor.
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Possibly the First Great Horror Film in History
gavin69428 November 2008
Dr. Jekyll has a grand idea... what if he could harness man's evil in two distinct forms? His colleague says no, that would cause man to be both god and devil. But Jekyll presses on and creates a serum that transforms him into another being entirely, that of Mr. Hyde. The experiment seems fair at first, but quickly spirals out of hand as Hyde's violence cannot be contained. How can Hyde be stopped and what will happen to the budding romance between Jekyll and his colleague's daughter? By itself, this film is pretty amazing. The makeup effects are ahead of their time and there's a special effect involving a tarantula that impressed me greatly. The acting is good -- a bit exaggerated at times, but that was simply the style of the day. Even the picture quality is impressive... clearly a lot of love and funding went into this project and it paid off in spades. Any future Jekyll/Hyde film would have to be compared to this one, and it would be a tough film to beat.

I had the special treat of catching it at the Music Box Massacre festival at the Music Box theater in Chicago. What made this great besides a silver screen presentation? Live organ accompaniment. For the entire length of the film, the organist kept us and our emotions moving from the romantic to the terrifying... without missing a note. Silent films may have faded away and will likely never regain any level of popularity, but if you do get the chance to see one, this is the proper way. Prerecorded music has nothing on the sound of a live organ. I have to give full credit to organist Mark Noller for such an amazing and inspiring performance.

This version of "Jekyll and Hyde", more than any other, stands out as a historic plank in the annals of horror and film. While it could be argued that other versions are better or more in touch with a modern audience -- and there are dozens of remakes and reimaginings to choose from -- this is one that should be seen by any serious horror fan or film scholar. Techniques used in it, such as the makeup, could still be influential today. Newer is not always better and while we today think of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" as the early horror masterpieces, this one should not be ruled out.
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Barrymore as Jekyll and Hyde
blanche-218 September 2015
Man going against the natural order is a common subject for books. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in the 1880s, about 60+ years after Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus." Instead of a created outside entity, however, Jekyll and Hyde deals in a split personality.

Jekyll and Hyde has been done in every imaginable medium, many times in film. Of all of them, perhaps the definitive J&H is John Barrymore in the remarkable 1920 version. There is also the 1932 version directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Frederic March, whose Mr. Hyde was somewhat simian-looking.

And then there is the MGM version, where Somerset Maugham, on the set, turned to director Victor Fleming and asked,"Which one is he now, Jekyll or Hyde?"

The Barrymore film is silent. Handsome, noble-looking, with ramrod straight posture, John Barrymore makes the transformation to the bent- over, hideously ugly and cruel Mr. Hyde by going into horrific contortions. By today's standards, these may seem over the top, as acting style has become more subtle. For Barrymore, this is unusual, as the majority of his performances appear modern even today.

What the 1920 film achieved before computers and CGI is amazing, so smooth are many of the Jekyll/Hyde transformations. And make no mistake, this Hyde is genuinely terrifying.

The rest of the cast isn't as good as Barrymore. Again, it's difficult to judge especially in silents, where widening eyes, an arm across a mouth is the start of a scream, twisting lips indicate cruelty -- all very different.

Nita Naldi plays a music hall performer. Dressed in a Spanish-type costume and showing some cleavage, she does what is supposed to be dance, waving her arms and turning around, occasionally taking a step right or left. Pretty Martha Mansfield is Millicent; sadly, she died from burns when she was 24.

John Barrymore performances are always worth seeing, and this one firmly established him as a film star. Don't miss it.
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Magnetic lead performance, good but not totally great silent classic
Quinoa198420 August 2018
John Barrymore is so captivating, gnarly and creepy, wth his clawed fingers and sort of cone-head (if not scary exactly) as Mr Hyde, and has a good dispositiom as Dr Jekyll too with his wide eyes and nice face, and the direction has enough pre-film-noir and horror gothic fluorishes that one can overlook how there doesn't seem to be that much rhyme or reason to when Jekyll decides (after the first time, and the exception of one scene where he turns in front of another man in a dissolve) to keep going into Hyde mode.

There are also too many title cards explaining dialog when it's not always needed. In a way this is one of the first superhero - or in this case super-villain - stories as he has this secret identity and people dont seem to see it's the same guy with a squint of the eyes. And the ending has the power of a werewolf movie at its finest (which, mytbically speaking, the similarities are clear)

A highlight: Jekyll dreams a giant spider (superimposed on the celluloid) is crawling up to him in bed.

PS: the Kino Lorber DVD has most of the same repeating score as was used for Les Vampires.
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