Welcome to this review of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from 1931. Although made numerous times, this adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s deeply powerful novel remains the classic, definitive version.
Starring: Frederic March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart
Directed by: Rouben Mamoulian
Ratings: Internet Movie Data Base; 7.7/10 …Rotten Tomatoes; 93%
Our Rating; 8/10
Available Here From: Amazon and eBay
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). Based on the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and regarded as the definitive version, this pre-censorship release is highly lurid and raw for its day.
…A brilliant scientist wants to prove the duality in man and concocts a formula that changes him into a completely uninhibited primitive brute.
And back again!
The blatant lustful cruelty shown by “Mr. Hyde” is what sets this film apart from films which merely hint at what’s happening, and why it was so disturbing to audiences of the 1930’s. …Hyde just doesn’t hold back! He’s motivated entirely by his selfish bestial instincts and cunning…alarming stuff for back then.
Along with his experiments with the dual character of man, Jekyll is at the same time, deeply frustrated by the apparent ignorance of his scientific colleagues as well as by the delay by his future Father-in-Law to grant Jekyll permission to marry his daughter.
This last situation causes Jekyll to consider a possible relationship with a dance hall girl whom he has recently come to the aid of. A relationship which Hyde will now surely seek out.
It’s interesting to see how well Mr. Hyde’s character comes to the surface. He literally shakes himself out of his previous state with a look of surprised liberation. Then he begins to stretch and blink as if he’s been “asleep“ until now. later on he walks outside and stops to taste the rain coming down. Still in a state of blissful renewal.
The transformation scenes are pretty incredible (again, for the time). The camera work is very unique and innovative, especially in the point-of-view style and the scene change effects.
A legendary performance by John Barrymore from the 1920 silent version, is remembered for Barrymore’s “natural” transformation from Jekyll to Hyde without the use of camera/special effects.
Another version coming in 1941 and starring Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman is a close runner up to the version discussed here. Tracy is calculating and menacing as Hyde, and with minimal use of make-up effects.
…This interpretation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from 1931, stars Frederic March who won an Oscar for his dual portrayal of the well intentioned yet misguided Dr. Jekyll (pronounced “Jee-kyll” here) and the apelike and menacing Mr. Hyde. And Miriam Hopkins who plays an absolutely superb role as a tormented victim completely trapped and humiliated by the psychopathic Hyde.
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