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>
When discussing who to cast as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, studio head Adolph Zukor initially suggested Irving Pichel for the part. Director Rouben Mamoulian turned it down because he wanted an actor who could play both parts convincingly, and felt Pichel could only play Hyde. Phillips Holmes was considered and rejected for the opposite reason: he would have been a good Jekyll but a poor Hyde. Mamoulian then suggested Fredric March. Zukor felt that this was a bad choice because, up till then, March had been featured in mostly lightweight roles. Mamoulian insisted that March was perfect for the part, and Zukor acquiesced. In addition to winning March the first of his two Oscars, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde was the part that finally led to Hollywood taking him seriously in more demanding roles. See more »
When Hyde looks into the mirror through the subjective camera, his "reflection" has two stains on his shirt on what would be the right hand side of the shirt if a true mirror image. However in the next shot where we see both of the Hydes, the mirror image and the real image, the stains are now on the left hand side of the shirt. This confirms that the subjective camera view was achieved by the 'mirror' really being a hole in the wall with the actor facing the camera. See more »
Not Quite the Book BUT Mesmerizing Performance by March and Innovative Direction/Camera
For all the existing film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" (1886), this 1931 Paramount offering starring the incomparable Frederic March is probably the best. None quite follow the original book, whose tale is actually told backwards in a way. The book does not follow a series of linear events that lead to the so-called "transformation". Instead, rumors of a strange man surface between two characters in the very opening. We learn about Hyde first before Jekyll, which is not the way any film adaptation has ever told the story.
Still, the present film has a lot going for it. At the forefront is Frederic March in the classic dual role of good and evil. When he first becomes Hyde, I thought another actor was playing the role, it's that good! Another distinctive aspect is the camera work which must have been extremely innovative for its time. The opening moments are shot with a first person perspective. The transformation is done relatively seamlessly considering CGI effects had yet to be invented. There are other moments of shadows and dark corridors. The atmospheric fog that permeates the entire film is worth the price of admission.
As stated by other reviewers, some of the dialog hearkens back to an earlier era of the Vaudeville Melodrama. Characters didn't just love each other, they loved each other for eternity! Still a fine film all things considered, dated perhaps in places, but still March's performance is unbeatable, and definitely deserved of the Academy Award for Best Actor.
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