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Latest Member: Edickoff Forum  |  Movies  |  Good Movies  |  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) « previous next »
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Author Topic: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)  (Read 2020 times)
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

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« on: November 30, 2008, 02:17:19 AM »

Some of the old silent movies still have it.  This is one of them.

We all know the movie version of the Jekyll and Hyde story.  Dr. Jekyll wants to give in to the baser part of his nature but, at the same time, doesn't want to tarnish the "good" part.  He concocts a serum that he thinks will separate his good and evil halves into two different beings.  That isn't the case.  The serum simply has the effect of bringing his evil half to the fore.  This evil persona takes to calling itself "Mr. Hyde" and (among other things) has a lot of sex with a lot of prostitutes and frequents a couple of opium dens.  Eventually, Hyde's transgressions are too great and bring about his, and Jekyll's, downfall.

This silent version of the story is still one of the best.  For one thing, it has the scariest *looking* Hyde of any of the film versions I've seen.  This Hyde isn't overly monstrous, but there's something wrong about him.  Hyde's trips into whorehouses and opium dens are every bit as unglamorous and filthy as they should be.  They are authentically dirty, in a way modern films just aren't.

If there's a weakness here, it is the same weakness almost all film versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story share.  To wit: Why should we feel sorry for Dr. Jekyll?  He creates his serum, basically, because he wants to cheat on his fiancee because he's been smitten by a prostitute.  This version comes out a little ahead of other versions, because Jekyll never would have felt this temptation if not for the actions of other people.  His fiancee's father, of all people, takes Jekyll to a burlesque house becaue he thinks Jekyll is too repressed to get married; he hasn't sinned enough.  This hardly makes Jekyll a tragic figure in my book, but at least it's a better reason for him to create his serum than some versions of the story put forth.

If you only see one silent film in your life, see this one.  It's good.

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The Burgomaster
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2008, 07:56:49 AM »

I saw this about a year ago in one of the MILL CREEK 50 MOVIE PACKS I own.  I agree it is a very good movie.  However, as far as silent movies go, I prefer NOSFERATU and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2008, 06:28:52 PM »

Thanks for putting this film in my mind.  I think I need to see this version to compare to the 1931 Frederic March/1941 Spencer Tracy versions.  The 1931 version was pre-Code, but it was only mildly sexy; it still seemed like Hyde should be even sleazier.  Barrymore's Hyde just may fit the bill.

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Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2008, 12:53:39 AM »

Oh, yes, he's very sleazy.  The scene where he goes into an extremely scummy brothel and picks up two girls for a threesome is so sleazy, I thought I watching a 70s movie for a second.

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peter johnson
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2008, 12:41:11 PM »

I saw this on a big-screen double-bill with "Un Sangre de Poete" once when I was 16 -- scarred me for life . . . In a good way!!

Barrymore was billed as using no makeup when the film came out, in response to the much-ballyhooed makeup abilities of Lon Chaney.  It's easy to see, though, that while the makeup is very minimal -- Barrymore does achieve much via facial twisting & leering -- he is, indeed, using shading techniques on his eyes & cheeks & hands.  Still, it's quite an accopmplishment. 

I've always been curious about what's flying off his hands/off his fingertips during the initial convulsion scene, and was it intentional.

Yes, it's a good scary flick -- one of the great things about "period" silent films is that Westerns & films set in the 19th century slums, etc., didn't have to stretch very far to get props and sets, and sometimes what you're seeing is the real deal that would have been around in the 1800's or 1700's, before Mr. Hitler's Urban Renewal Projects or suburban sprawl ate a lot of these places up.  I recall parts of Glasgow in the 1970's, that were missed by the Luftwaffe, before the economic boom times, that had been slums since the 1700's -- You could have filmed a plausible remake of "Hyde" right there and then!!

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