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Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde [Blu-ray] [1920] [US Import]

3.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00F878JW6
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,674 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

From Amazon.co.uk

In this 1920 silent version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, John Barrymore is dignified and virtuous as Dr Henry Jekyll, and transforms into Id incarnate as the lascivious Mr. Hyde with almost no make-up beyond his gnarled, knobby fingers and greasy hair, relying 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 co-stars 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, Amazon.com --This text refers to the DVD edition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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