In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
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>
The characters of Muriel Carew and her father do not appear in Robert Louis Stevenson's original story. They are based on similar characters created by playwright T.R. Sullivan for his 1887 stage adaptation of the story. See more »
When Dr. Jekyll is first seen in the mirror, looking directly into the camera, the effect was achieved by filming Fredric March through a large hole in the wall framed to look like a mirror. On the other side there is a reverse of the set, making it appear as though it is a reflection. But moments earlier, the trick is revealed when the butler walks past the "mirror" but has no reflection. See more »
Originally released at 97 minutes. Later reissues are taken from a shortened 82-minutes print. Deletions include:
A 3.5 minute segment immediately following the opening credits. This is filmed in first person, and shows Jekyll playing the organ and getting ready for his lecture.
Jekyll helping a young girl to learn to walk in the free ward. This 1 minute scene precedes the scene with the sick woman in bed.
After his first transformation, Jekyll does not go immediately to the pub as in the cut version. Instead, Poole comes to the laboratory, and Jekyll takes the antidote and then lets him in. Jekyll then visits Muriel and learns that she is going away on a trip. Jekyll is preoccupied with her absence. When he learns she will be away another month, Poole suggests he go out. Jekyll knows a man of his position cannot be seen in the establishments of the lower classes, so he decides to take the potion again. Another on screen transformation occurs, this time while he is seated in a chair. He then leaves for the pub at which Ivy is singing. This sequence lasts 6.5 minutes.
Just before Jekyll's transformation in the park, the restored scene reveals the reason for his transformation without taking the potion. He sees a bird being killed by a cat up in a tree. The traces of the drug in him, combined with the witnessing of this violent act, is enough to trigger the transformation, which he now has no control over. This restored cut lasts 45 seconds.
The last restored scene is when Jekyll visits Muriel to "set her free". This adds additional details as to the torment Jekyll is going through, and confusion of Muriel as to what is troubling Jekyll.
As this film demonstrates, director Rouben Mamoulian (Applause (1929)) and cinematographer Karl Struss (Sunrise (1927)) were two of the great innovators in renewing the role of the camera for the talkies. Lesser talents began the talkies much the same as silent films began: with a static camera. The sound is still creaky, as usual, with awkward silences, but it's not bothersome. The editing isn't always seamless here, either, and, at times, makes the film seem unpolished, but that, too, is minor. This is the best version of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", in my opinion, and that has very little to do with the actual story adaptation, which comes more from the stage, anyhow. It's the role of the camera that's remarkable.
I don't mean to say that this adaptation is of little interest; it's especially interesting when compared to the novella and its other adaptations. The 1920-John Barrymore version features a more grotesque Hyde and a stiffer Jekyll. Here, Jekyll is, at first, full of gaiety and youthful exuberance. That's more faithful to the novel, but also reflects the filmmakers' intentions and the changes in Hollywood. The 1920 film was bolder in content in some respects; it was a mood piece of horror and atmosphere. The fogy lamp-lit slums of London are still realized vividly in this one, but much of the feeling in them is lost. On the other hand, the mirror motif comes out more here, which corresponds nicely with the doppelgänger (or doubles) theme inherit in the story. This 1931 film is of the classic Hollywood era. The added emphasis on the romance between Jekyll and Muriel is a result. This version is about more than the story, though; the major focus is in the camera-work.
The film begins with about three and half minutes of long point-of-view takes, with a mobile camera, from the perspective of Dr. Jekyll. It establishes the camera as an active participant in the film, rather than merely a static recorder. Throughout the picture, the camera continually moves--from slight zooms, dollies, pans and tilts to dance-like tracking shots during the party sequence. Additionally, some extreme close-ups show only a character's eyes. A POV shot during Jekyll's first transition into Hyde turns into spinning memories, which is in addition to the special effects that allow for transformations that are seen with fluent, unbroken rhythm from the camera's eye.
The camera positioning is varied, as well, and some shots are extraordinary just in their positions. The photography exploits the sets to greater effect occasionally, and the filmmakers position props with the camera especially well and in rather thematic ways that apply to the story. Yet, the photography is most brilliant when not subject to much scene dissection: long takes that are unbroken and add more fluency to the already tight plot.
One could say this is showy film-making; even the transitional effects seem to draw attention to themselves: lengthy dissolves that linger as superimposed images (such as the image of Ivy's legs over the image of Jekyll and Dr. Lanyon's debate) and wipes that create brief split-screen shots. But, the camera is the most essential part of film-making (along with editing), and it seems negligent to subject it to a role of impotence--to just recording an enacted play. This 1931 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a cinematic artwork and shows what film should be concerning the role of its most basic apparatus.
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