Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(7/10) In a nutshell: Spencer Tracy hams his way through this 1941 high-profile remake of the 1931 version of the film. Ingrid Bergman shines in the female lead and the production values are great – but what could have been something of a masterpiece is lost in translation as director Victor Fleming isn’t familiar with the genre. It is, however, a good and thoroughly enjoyable movie.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 1941, USA. Directed by Victor Fleming. Written by John Lee Mahin, based on the screenplay by Percy Heath and Samuel Hoffenstein, in turn based on the play by Thomas Russell Sullivan, based on the novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Produced by Victor Fleming and Victor Saville for MGM. Tomatometer: 65. IMDb score: 6.9

Spencer Tracy hamming away in Victor Fleming's 1941 film. He hated the wig. So do we.

Spencer Tracy hamming away in Victor Fleming’s 1941 film. He hated the wig. So do we.

This is the fifth instalment of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde I’m reviewing, so I won’t go into the details of the basic story and the development of the film versions brought to the screen. For more on that, please see my review of the 1920 version. Suffice to say, as most people know, the film is based on the 1886 novella of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson, and concerns a Dr. Jekyll who concocts a potion that both distrorts his appearance and his mind – bringing out the evil and the animal lust inherent in all men.  Continue reading

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(7/10) In a nutshell: By many considered as the best version of Stephenson’s classic book, this 1931 film resulted in an Oscar win for actor Fredric March. Beautifully filmed by Rouben Mamoulian and well played across the board. It also features some stunning visual tricks and strong pre-code sexual content.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 1931, USA. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart. Written by Samuel Hoffenstein, Percy Heath. Based on the play by Thomas Russell Sullivan (uncredited), based on the novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Produced by Rouben Mamoulian, Adolph Zukor for Paramount. Tomatometer: 93 %. IMDb score: 7.7

Fredric March's lauded Mr Hyde.

Fredric March’s lauded Mr Hyde.

The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde story is one of the most enduring and classic ones in both literary and film history. Although the motives and circumstances of for splitting one character into two have changed from adaptation to adaptation, the basic premise of the story is still compelling. This 1931 version is the first sound film, and like most films, it is an adaptation of the 1897 stage play by Thomas Russell Sullivan, rather than the book by Robert Louis Stevenson.

I have already written extensively about Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and for a more detailed look on the evolution of the story, please read the reviews of the different film adaptations from 1912, 1913, and most importantly, 1920. Continue reading

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(8/10) In a nutshell: In a career-defining role as Jekyll/Hyde John Barrymore lifts the quality of this 1920 silent film by two whole points, and sets the bar almost out of reach for anyone who has ever tried on the same role after him.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 1920, USA. Directed by John S. Robertson. Written by: Clara Beranger, based on a play by Thomas Russell Sullivan. Based on the books Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (uncredited). Starring: John Barrymore, Nita Naldi. Produced by Adolph Zukor and Jesse S. Lasky for Lasky Famous-Players. Tomatometer: 92 %. IMDb score: 7.0

Production still from the film, with John Barrymore as Hyde.

Production still from the film, with John Barrymore as Hyde.

In 1920 director John S. Robertson and in particular lead actor John Barrymore created what remains the most well remembered adaptation of the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-story, despite numerous later versions. It is a testament to the astounding talent of Barrymore that this silent version still has such an impact on contemporary viewers that no other film, despite their superior technical and dramatic values, have been able to eclipse this one as an icon. When we think of Mr Hyde, John Barrymore’s image is the one that comes to mind, even if we have never even seen the film, nor know who John Barrymore is, very much like Boris Karloff and Frankenstein’s monster (1931, review). Continue reading

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(5/10) In a nutshell: This 1913 version of the famous story is almost half an hour in length. It has some impressive production values, but falls short because of movie megastar King Baggot’s unintentionally comic portrayal of Hyde.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 1913, USA. Directed by: Herbert Brenon. Written by Herbert Brenon, based on the stage play by Thomas Russell Sullivan (uncredited), based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Starring: King Baggot, Jane Gail. Produced by Carl Laemmle for IMP/Universal. IMDb score: 5.3

King Baggot scaring a whole tavern to death with his Jerry Lewis teeth.

King Baggot scaring a whole tavern to death with his Jerry Lewis teeth.

1912-1915 was something of a golden age for filmatisations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s sci-fi horror novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Hot off the heels of the 1912 version starring James Cruze (review) came the first 1913 version directed by one of the more prominent directors of the early silent era, Herbert Brenon. The film starred King Baggot, Hollywood’s first true leading man and international star. In many ways it is superior to its 12 minutes long predecessor (which was the 6th known version of the story), but the triple running time isn’t enough to make this film one of the greats. The biggest problem is the Hollywood star himself, who creates a bizarre portrait of Jekyll/Hyde. Continue reading

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(4/10) In a nutshell: The 1912 American film Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the earliest surviving film adaptation of the novel. It’s not an especially well directed, but a decently acted and fairly entertaining version.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 1912, USA. Directed by Lucius Henderson. Written by: Screenplay writer uncredited, possibly Hendrson. Based on the play by Thomas Russell Sullivan, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Starring: James Cruz, Florence La Badie. Produced for Thanhouser. IMDb score: 5.9

James Cruze as Mr Hyde in 1912.

James Cruze as Mr Hyde in 1912.

One of the most adapted books in the world is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for short, as there are over 120 known film adaptations and dozens of stage versions. There is endless debate over whether or not the book qualifies as science fiction, with the purists settling firmly on the ”not” side. Since I am taking the broad road on his blog, I fail to completely see why. It is, in any case, the story of a scientist using science (a potion) to change not his appearance, but losing his personality and morals in the act, and using science to stop his ailment when the experiment goes sour. It is both a moral tale about balancing your dark and light sides, and a cautionary tale about the progress of science, much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In my book those are the premises for science fiction.

This version, made in the US in 1912, is a short and very basic 12 minute retelling of the story. It was not the first adaptation of the film, but probably the earliest surviving version. As far as I can tell, it is actually the 6th version of the book. Continue reading