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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde [VHS]
Format: VHS Tape|Change
Price:£8.99+ £2.80 shipping

on 17 April 2002
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.
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on 15 January 2009
1920 saw the release of two film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that could not have contrasted more; one polished, thoughtful and kept in period setting; the other a cheap, rushed derivative set in modern America to save money on sets and costumes. The economy class quickie was produced by Louis B. Mayer and featured Sheldon Lewis, best known as the Clutching Hand in many a movie serial such as The Perils of Pauline (1915). Sheldon's Hyde was described in the film's sub titles as "An Apostle of Hell" who begins his life of debauchery by snatching a passing lady's purse. Hyde's dastardly doings do get a little more ambitious, eventually earning him a date with the electric chair. But, as he fries, the trusty Thank-God-it-was-a-Dream cop out kicks in and Jekyll wakes up declaring "I believe in God! I have a soul..." The film closes with Jekyll safely escorting his fiancee to the opera

The audiences of 1920 could only be thankful for Paramount Pictures and their more seminal adaptation starring John Barrymore as both noble Jekyll and a very spider like Hyde. Screenwriter Clara Beranger expanded the romantic element by doubling Jekyll's sweetheart, Millicent, with a lust interest for Hyde; a sultry Italian temptress called Miss Gina whom Hyde shacks up in a Soho apartment and slowly sucks dry of all vigour - the spider and the fly. This externalisation allowed the sexual themes of the story to come more into the foreground and placed the hero between two woman who present different lures. On the one hand, there is the upper class virgin who is only sexually obtainable through the propriety of marriage. She is mirrored by the the lower class woman of easy virtue who exists in the dark underbelly of society; an area which a man like Jekyll would be seen to eschew, but in which Hyde positively revels.

The writer was also able to dispense with the customary Thank-God-it-was-a-Dream ending that had afflicted previous screen verions of the story, and present Jekyll & Hyde as a real story. Beranger's revisionist structure actually owes more to The Picture of Dorian Gray than Stevenson's tale, particularly in the introduction of Jekyll's amoral mentor Sir George Carewe played by Brandon Hurst. The character of Miss Gina also owes some inspiration to Sibyl Vane, an actress who is seduced by Dorian Gray and later commits suicide. But Beranger's approach became the most well known interpretation of the Jekyll & Hyde story, and also provided the model for the cinema's first sound take on the story in that followed in 1932, again courtesy of Paramount.
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on 18 July 2004
Directed by John S. Robertson and starring matinee idol John Barrymore in the dual title role, 1920's DR. JECKYLL & MR. HYDE is sometimes described as the "first American horror film." That description is more than a little problematic, but whether it was or it wasn't, DR. JECKYLL AND MR. HYDE certainly put the horror genre on the Hollywood map.
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. Some of these are quite good, but I particularly recommend the Kino version, which offers a good picture, good soundtrack, and several interesting bonuses. Other release versions should be approached with caution, and you should avoid releases by the likes of Alpha or Madacy as you would the plague. They may seem attractive in terms of price, but frankly... in this instance you get what you pay for.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 14 September 2010
Despite being one of his signature screen roles, John Barrymore's hugely successful 1920 version of Robert Louis Stevenson's oft-filmed tale is far from the definitive one - for that you'd have to see the 1931 Rouben Mamoulian-Frederic March film, which is still striking today. Despite a few moments of censor-baiting child cruelty and sexual exploitation, it's a rather flat adaptation, with Barrymore the main attraction. His Jekyll may be a bit of a milquetoast, but the ham in him knows that Hyde is the real meat-and-potatoes for an actor, and he devours it readily, showcasing his own remarkable makeup-free initial transformation achieved with little more than some expressive scrunching of his own features and some subtle lighting that is extraordinarily successful (later shots of him fully transformed did take advantage of some monster makeup, however). It's a party trick Barrymore repeated, perhaps even more successfully, in a scene in his later Don Juan, but where that had a great film built around it, here the transformations at times feel too much like the whole show. And it's certainly worth the price of a ticket at least once, even if the film itself is distinctly average even for its day.

As one of the most popular Public Domain titles on the DVD market, there's no shortage of truly terrible transfers - most poor prints, often running at the wrong speed, sometimes incomplete and often with hideous and irrelevant scores - so it's worth noting that Kino's Region 1 NTSC DVD release is probably the best version we'll ever get. Aside from a good print at the right speed, it also comes with copious and always relevant extras - an extract from the rival and much cheaper 1920 Sheldon Lewis version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde that was offered to exhibitors who couldn't afford the more expensive Barrymore version, an early Stan Laurel short film Dr Pyckle and Mr Pride, detailed production notes that are far from the usual PR fluff you get on DVDs as well as a rare 1909 audio recording of a particularly hammy stage version of `The Transformation Scene.' It may cost a bit more, but it's worth it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 October 2015
It's one of the most famous pieces of literature ever written, a genius piece of story telling from the trippy mind of Robert Louis Stevenson. That it has consistently been ripe for film and stage adaptations, and continues to be so since it first surfaced in written form in 1866, is testament to what a devilishly intelligent piece of work it is.

This 1931 version, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and staring Fredric March, may not be 100% faithful to the source, but it's arguably the finest adaptation to screen, led by a superb performance from March and featuring technical guile by Mamoulian and his team. It's wonderfully stylish, and coming as it did before the Hayes Code, it's sexy and dangerous, awash with terrifying cruelty, with the subversive and Freudian psychological beats making for a Gothic horror classic.

Split personality a go go, inhibitions cast asunder, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is priceless. 8/10
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on 30 September 2004
...because we don't know which version is being offered here. Same for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, of which I have one version already. Which one will I get from Amazon? Won't know till I open the package! I loved the 50's swashbucking version of the prisoner... Hope it's that one.
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on 1 December 2011
this is one of the first truly great horror films in american cinema, largely due to john barrymore's magnificent performance in the title roles.
when i first saw his inital transformation from jekyll to hyde, it was like something from the theatre in that barrymore didn't need any makeup. all he had to do, was to adjust his posture and his facial expression and there was hyde before my eyes! a fine example of acting if ever i saw one.
the storyline is a good one and the title cards are well-written as they explain and describe each character in depth. the sets are a bit on the small side perhaps and certainly can't compare to the sets used for the 1931 version but they serve their purpose nevertheless. the debate about man being able to seperate his evil nature from his good one, is highlighted quite well.
the supporting cast range from being good to average. this film belongs to john barrymore.
the special features included on this dvd from "kino video" include a one reel comedy with stan laurel, using the same story and it is quite amusingly done(where's oliver hardy when you need him?) there are also a few clips of what was a rival production made at the same time of the "jekyll and hyde" story. this is fairly interesting but i would have to see the whole film of course, in order to create a full impression.
considering the age of the film, the footage is remarkably clear.
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on 10 November 2011
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (Silent Classics) [DVD]
Most of us know about the movie and its been reviewed better by other folks so all i will say is that this is a bad transfer by Starlite Digital. This is the one with the cover with the chalk writing.
It looks like a 5th generation copy! Sure the film is like ancient but i've seen fantastic versions of other silent movies. Until someone does a decent remaster i guess this will have to do but be prepared to be a bit disappointed. Fantastic movie though.
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on 10 January 2015
Brilliant adaption.. Barrymore apparently achieved this character mostly by facial expressions and actually dislocated his jaw in the process.. I am led to believe.. it shows the duel personality disorder lurking in all of us as far as I am concerned.. one clip where he is suppose too be ass evil as can be is when he takes a toy away from a child in the street.. huge public outcry almost.. if only we had stricter rules these days..
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on 11 May 2014
I usually avoid very old films on Blu-ray because the only ones I have seen so far are very poor.
I changed my mind when I saw the films Phantom of the Opera, Metropolis and Nosferatu (understandably slightly scratched because the original negatives and most copies were destroyed).
Accordingly I was very pleased to see this release as I love the film. Also being a KENO label I took this to be a quality product.
How wrong was I !
No attempt at scratch removal was attempted, nor re-colourisation of tinting . It is basically a cheap transfer from a poor original.
I bought a box set of DVD's for a couple of pounds about 5 years ago that included this film with The Golem, Phantom, The Hunchback and The Cabinet of Doctor Cagliari - all of which are far superior to this release and include a good tint.
I am so disappointed at this release I cant bare to keep it on the shelf!
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