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>
There have been more than 40 versions of Stevenson's classic tale but the one that eclipses them all for ingenuity is Dr Pyckle and Mr Pride (1925) a two reeler in which Stan Laurel creates a brilliant parody of John Barrymore's 1920 performance. See more »
When Dr. Jekyll leaves for his walk in the park, it can be seen that it is dark outside his house. When he is walking through the park, it appears to be daytime. At the party implied to take place around the same time, they complain about Jekyll not being there "tonight." See more »
Pre-Code Jekyll/Hyde With The Amazing Fredric March!
This is viewed by many to be the best cinematic re-telling of Stevenson's original work, which is a tad odd as very little of the novella remains. The concept of the duality of human nature is still present in March's Dr Jekyll/Hyde, but a whole lot of sex and daring visual effects have been added to Stevenson's controversial Victorian work. The result? An excellent and entertaining film that will stay in the mind for quite some time.
Fredric March, one of the best actors of all time, won the Academy Award for playing the dual roles. It's not hard to see why- March is excellent in this one, and plays both Jekyll and Hyde with enthusiasm and vigour. It's a very theatrical performance by today's standards. but what a fun performance it is! March shows his incredible acting range here.
March's Jekyll is a repressed Victorian doctor who is interested in both separating the two sides of human nature- 'good' and 'evil'- from each other, and quickly marrying his rich fiancé Muriel Carew (Rose Hobart). A slight hitch in his plans- Muriel's father insists that the two lovers must wait eight months before they are married, so they can wed on the anniversary of his own wedding. It's a rather laughable concept actually, but it serves it's purpose as the pre-cursor to March's wild rampage as Hyde. It seems the primary reason Jekyll wants to marry Muriel is to bed her, and when he can't do that, he takes a concoction of drugs and turns into the simian, sexually uninhibited Hyde.
March's make-up almost destroyed his wonderful looks forever, so it deserves a mention here. Looking at through today's CGI-trained eyes, March's Hyde is ridiculously overdone and more comical than scary. Tracy's 1941 Hyde is a much subtler figure, which suits the narrative better in some ways. However, Mamoulian effectively conveys to the audience in his version that Hyde is having a lot of fun, is liberated in his personal and sexual freedom, hence the 'comical' aspects. March, amazing in both comedy and drama, plays him at first like a free-wheeling puppy, eager for discovery, than as a real monster as he degenerates both in appearance and behaviour. The simian make-up suits the notion of Hyde being 'semi-evolved' in nature, so it all works out in the end.
Miriam Hopkins is the Cockney slut Ivy who Jekyll good-naturedly attends to at first, then brutalizes her as Hyde. March's first encounter as Jekyll with Hopkin's Hyde is a erotically-charged, provocative affair. Jekyll's primal instincts and his need to unleash them, quickly, are displayed in his overt sexual interest in Ivy. She's a girl who knows the value of sex, too, as she sexily strips for him after he makes a suggestive comment that her garter is perhaps too tight. For those interested in film history, take note of these powerful scenes between March and Hopkins- they would help bring on the Production Code in a couple of years. A sexually aroused Jekyll is grabbed and kissed by an explicit Ivy while she lies visibly naked in bed, something that would be absolutely banished from films in just a few years.
Hopkins turns in an excellent performance in this one, very convincing as the 'Tart With A Heart' Ivy. She's a brazen, sexual creature, complete with brassy blonde hair and cleavage, yet she's also sympathetic . Her situation with Hyde (where she is 'kept' by him) is borne as much out of economic necessity as it is out of total fear. And total fear is what Hopkins does best here- her scenes with March ravishing her as Hyde are among the best in film history. She's a cheap, tragic figure and provides an interesting contrast to the 'other side' of Victorian society reflected in Jekyll's fiancé Muriel.
Hobart is rather weak in a role that is, admittedly, poorly written. She has a one-dimensional role, and Hopkins is given much more opportunity to shine. Interesting to see March and Hopkins battle it out, acting-wise.
Mamoulian builds an amazing atmosphere here with some studio-bound, yet very Expressionistic sets. Lighting is used to great effect, and the camera work was revolutionary for it's time. The subjective camera-work at the beginning where we see the action through Jekyll's eyes was innovative (a little shaky, but innovative all the same)as were the wipes used constantly to juxtapose Ivy and Muriel. The garden party scene with March and Hobart has some oddly fascinating shots, with Mamoulian focusing on the lover's eyes and foreheads when they are professing their love. Symbolism is used nicely throughout, with a number of prominent statues and paintings depicting naked women. The fire-and-brimstone hell imagery of Jekyll's lab is also a clever visual effect- Jekyll is truly a man about to 'boil over'.
The transformation sequences are amazing for their time, and March acts them so well. Much of the dialogue spoken is melodramatic and rather hokey, yet we have some great lines. There's some rather fascinating religious overtones to March's Jekyll who is looked upon as a God-like figure by a number of characters. The crippled girl's cry, with hands out, to Jekyll 'I can walk sir!' is one of religious ecstasy, and Ivy looks upon him as a saint who can save her from Hyde. Alas, that cannot be. Hyde is a sinner as Jekyll is a saint, and we know exactly what he does with Ivy when the scenes fade to black.
I consider this better than 'Dracula' or 'Frankenstein' (both 1931 films) for Mamoulian's stylish direction, the presence of viable female characters, the brilliant camera-work, and the acting of March and Hopkins.
Not the original source material, but a darn good film that uses the female characters and the addition of sex to underline the dual side of man.
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