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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [Import]
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It took John Barrymore to bring class to the American horror film, at least in the eyes of the industry. Dignified and virtuous as Dr. Henry Jekyll in this 1920 silent, Barrymore transforms into id incarnate as the lascivious Mr. Hyde. With almost no makeup beyond his gnarled, knobby fingers and greasy hair, Barrymore relies almost solely on a bug-eyed grimace, a spidery body language, and pure theatrical flourish. He tends to be hammy as the leering beast of a thug but brings a tortured struggle to the repressed doctor, horrified at the demon he's unleashed, guilty that he enjoys Hyde's unrestrained life of drinking and whoring, and terrified that he can no longer control the transformations. Martha Mansfield costars as his pure and innocent sweetheart, and Nita Naldi (the vamp of Blood and Sand) has a small but memorable role as the world-weary dance hall darling who first "wakens" Jekyll's "baser nature." --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Kino's DVD features a fine transfer from a 35mm negative, though its age can be seen in minor deterioration in some of the darker scenes. Supplements include Stan Laurel's 1925 parody Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (with Laurel doing a dead-on lampoon of Barrymore's performance), an excerpt from the rival 1920 version starring Sheldon Lewis as the schizophrenic hero, a rare 1909 audio recording of "The Transformation Scene," and an illustrated essay on the story's origins and incarnations. --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Whether or not you happen to like this particular version of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson tale will depend a great deal upon your tolerance for the change in acting styles that has occurred between the silent and the modern era. Some silent stars--Lillian Gish, Ramon Novarro, and Louise Brooks leap to mind--were remarkably subtle and worked to create a new style of acting appropriate to the screen, but most actors played very broadly. John Barrymore, considered one of the greatest actors of his day, is among the latter, and was noted for his larger-than-life performances on stage. He brings that expansiveness to the screen, where it inevitably feels "too big" to the modern viewer.
At the time, Barrymore's transformation into the evil Mr. Hyde was considered shocking in its realism, but today these celebrated scenes are more likely to induce snickers than thrills--as will much of Hyde's make-up, which seems excessive to the modern sensibility. Even so, there are aspects of the film which survive quite well, scenes in which one is permitted a glimpse into the power this film once had. For Barrymore's Hyde is, for all his bizarre ugliness, a remarkably seductive creature--and Barrymore uses his hands and eyes in a remarkable way. One feels the sexual pull as much as one feels the revulsion.
The 1920 DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE is available in several VHS and DVD releases.Read more ›
* DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE has a LOUD church organ accompaniment. This being an Alpha Video release, the music has nothing to do with the on screen action.
* The print quality really varies. It looks like someone patched this together from a number of prints.
* Boy, they sure like getting profile shots of John Barrymore, don't they?
* Hmmm. Characters are chattering away like jaybirds and there's nary a title card to be seen. Wonder if people were better at lip reading in the '20s? Wouldn't help much with this one - some scenes, or portions of scenes, are out of focus.
* Sheesh, some scenes are REALLY washed out.
* The male actors seem to wear more white pancake make-up, eye-liner, mascara and lipstick than the female actors.
* Putting a two-bit white powder wig on the head and talcum on the eyebrows of a bit player does NOT make them look realistically old.
* Ah. Sleaze. The music hall and the Italian dancer Gina (Nita Naldi.) She's performing the "Over-Dressed Veil Dancer's Sashay of Seduction" for the Temptation of Dr. Jekyll scene.
* It worked! He's hooked! This can't be a good thing.
* "... he wakened to a sense of his baser nature" indeed. Stupid title card.
* I don't think they did much make-up work on Barrymore for the Mr. Hyde scenes. Just a little bronze face paint and finger extensions. When he's Jekyll Barrymore looks like David Byrne. When he's Hyde he looks like Ray Davies.
* Woo-hoo. That little transformation jig is a lot more entertaining than Naldi's hootchie dance.
* John Barrymore may be a ham, but he's fun to watch.Read more ›
And now the bad bits,or where the missing 2 stars went:
1) The title cards are not complete originals,they go from decorative,to semi-decorative,to added in at a much later date.
2)The "music" score for this version is an absolute joke. A monkey on a caliope would've scored it better. Half of the music is nowhere near correct for the scenes.( Try to imagine a wind up jewelery box,playing during one of Dr.Jekyll's murderous rages.).I've heard a live organ accompaniment to this film,and this DVD version,isn't it.
3) The "extras" are nothing more than a "feeble" interactive quiz,a picture of a lobby posters,and a "trailer". ( Although I'm not sure they had film trailers in the 1920's.)
If you MUST have this film,the price is right,but by all means turn down the sound and put on your own choice of "scarey music"....or a collection of music boxes if you like it that way.
Most recent customer reviews
First you're attracted by the price, and then, if you already got the misfortune of acquiring Madacy's product(s), you know it's not even worth that price, since they usually... Read morePublished on Nov. 25 2003 by philrob
Robert Louis Stevenson cranked out finely plotted, freshly original stories like clockwork. He was the Stephen King of his time and, like King, excelled at horror. Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2001 by Robin Simmons
It may be surprising to audiences with modern movie-going sensibilities, given both the absence of well-established genre conventions and the obvious limitations imposed by the... Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2001 by Movie Crazy CT
Barrymore's stunning metamorphosis from kindly Dr. Jekyll to hideous Mr. Hyde is remarkably amazing in that he accomplished the effect largely through acting technique - because of... Read morePublished on May 19 2000