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18 June 2011

[Silent Film Marathon] 2#Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920) Review

Directed by: John S.Robertson
Produced by: Adolph Zukor
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Silent, Drama
Runtime: 73 Minutes

So here is the second film in my Silent film series and here we have a pretty good one at that. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of those stories most people know about in this day and age and at the time of this film’s release, being 1920 this would have been very interesting for the readers of the novel. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde got another film in 1930, which was sound, but we aren't here to discuss that one. So horror and thriller stories are early at this stage with the up rise of these monster movies like Frankenstein, Dracula, Nosferatu and the list goes on. This one is about a posh and well-mannered man who creates a foul potion that splits his personality in his attempt to try and rid all badness from his body. Starring John Barrymore as Dr Jekyll, there is some nice performances, especially the transformation of Jekyll to Hyde. Being a silent film, and not too far into the era of silent feature films, this film is impressive in terms of storytelling through miming. We have title cads that seem like passages from the original novel to guide the story and is almost like a silent version of a narrative voice over. I quite enjoyed Dr Jekyll’ and Mr Hyde with it’s surprising pioneering story which actions would be later homage to in media all over the place. This has happened with several classic films of the silent era and the 30’s.




Dr Jekyll is an idealist and a Philanthropist and soon becomes obsessed with the notion of separating the good and evil impulses within every man. To this end, he develops a potion which unleashes his own darker side: the demonic Mr. Hyde. This was the adaptation which established the clichà (C) of having both a "good" and "bad" leading lady, to parallel the doppelganger aspects of the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Martha Mansfield is the good girl, while Nita Naldi, wearing costumes that were daring indeed in 1920, is the bad one. The adaptors also borrowed the character of Lord Henry from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray in order to provide Jekyll with an evil mentor/blackmailer. Sadly, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde proved to be one of the last starring films for leading lady Martha Mansfield: she died horribly during filming of The Warrens of Virginia (1924) when her costume touched a discarded match and burst into flame.


It is a story of how everyone has another side to them, whether it’s consciously or sub-consciously. The whole split personality thing in this film is very entertaining and Barrymore’s performance was superb and the psychotic look in Jekyll’s eye is very frightening and sends child down your spine. It is a look that could only be achieved with a silent or black and white film that gives it this certain appeal. The sets where grand and had a very eerie feel towards the end as we have Jekyll running around like a hunched nutcase –which is basically what he is-. The costumes were also very good too.

The only thing I disliked about this film was the music. The music was nice but it seemed too constant. There is a seen when someone dies and the music doesn’t change and almost seems happy toned. The music could have been improved as it didn’t create much of the atmosphere. Overall I think it’s another one of those pioneering classic silent films and is very entertaining if you can appreciate its efforts and pioneering style, and that’s what really astounds me more about silent films. Making silent films was very hard in those days because now anyone can make a film, all they need to do is use a camera from a mobile to an iPhone. So I give credit to these films wonderful efforts, terrific acting and very interesting story. Overall if you enjoy a good silent film, then this one is worth checking out.


Overall: 7/10

The film is one the Public Domain so you can watch it here:


2 comments:

  1. Shit..am I glad you posted a link for it. I'm gonna watch it once coz now I know where you found it. great review, I think this is very very interesting after I saw LXG, man.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've never seen it but I want to!

    ReplyDelete

 

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