16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Barrymore's Great Performance - Average Film,
This review is from: Doctor Jekyll And Mr Hyde  [DVD]  (DVD)
John Barrymore has deservedly been praised for his excellent portrayal as Edward Hyde in this early American production. Not only his facial expression is disturbing, his gait and movement bring together Stevenson's depiction of Hyde as 'troglodyte' and 'simian'. Barrymore's performance brings this movie to heights that it doesn't deserve on any other aspect of it. His transformation into Hyde before the eyes of Sir George Carew is one of the weirdest moments in all horror film history. The sexual appetite of the bestial Hyde is subtly insinuated by moody illustrations and his contorted spider-like creeping when around women.
The screenplay seems, however, more influenced by Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" than by Stevenson's novel. The cynical Carew resembles the jaded Lord Henry who brings a virtuous Dorian Gray/Henry Jeckyll into temptation, while Jeckyll's conservative friend Dr. Laynon reminds one of Dorian Gray's voice of conscience Basil. Also, the idea of being able to indulge in vice and eroticism while keeping a clean soul/visage is quite the same: Edward Hyde is Dorian Gray's decaying portrait.
The film takes a while to get going, and has overall very uninteresting mise-en-scene, except where Hyde is involved. In the end, though, its potential could have been stronger - it doesn't escape the sentimental moralising that the novel does: good and evil are taken for granted, and we must choose what to follow. It it weren't for Barrymore's superb acting, this film would have little merit to remember it by.