Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Kino Classics Blu-ray) - John Barrymore
Synopsis from Kino:
Considered by many to be the first great American horror film, John S. Robertson's DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE allowed stage legend John Barrymore to deliver his first virtuoso performance on film. Blending historic charm with grim naturalism, this version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is one of the more faithful of the many screen adaptations of Stevenson's story (though greatly influenced by T.R. Sullivan's popular stage treatment), recounting a visionary scientist's ill-fated attempts to unleash the human mysteries that dwell beneath the shell of the civilized self.
This is a silent picture with appropriately haunting music and fairly true to the the original literature from what I can remember (though plenty of liberties taken with the creation of Millicent). Each scene is set and then characters introduced into that scene framing out each locale and dividing the sanctuaries for both Jekyll and Hyde almost by location. When Hyde crosses over into Jekyll's world it is abundantly obvious as is the inverse.
Hyde's look is that of a hunchbacked creature with an egg shaped, balding head, nearly oblong. His eyes our gouged out sunken pits and his smile is a toothy picket fence of daggers. He wears a bulbous hat to cover his aggrieved head. Without a vocal performance to give his words adequate edge, the grimace is enough to be heard by your mind's ear. Perhaps we gain from the lack of audio because we are forced to imagine the panic and drama of the audio solely based on the score rather than on overdramatic haughty, righteous folk unable to understand the best of intentions of Jekyll (no matter how selfish).
Now this is mastered in HD from archival 35mm elements, 1920 x 1080p, 1.33:1. The film grain has been lovingly preserved with minimal noise reduction if any. This is a silent feature from 1920 that is scratched and battered, and the restoration leaves this intact appropriately.The audio track is crisp and clear featuring a musical score compiled by Rodney Suer, performed by the Mont Alte Motion Picture Orchestra.
The extras are built for the Jekyll and Hyde fanatic. It features a 1912 version of J and H from Thanshouser starring James Cruze (only 12 minutes long), the rival 15 minute cut of the 1920 version starring Sheldon Lewis and produced by Lous B. Mayer, Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (a parody of course from 1925) and "The Transformation Scene" a rare 1909 audio recording. These works may offer basis of comparison as to what had been scene of Hyde before Barrymore and predating March.
What strikes me is that Jekyll is selfish. He ultimately undertakes his experiments in transformation to prove himself a well rounded husband for his bride to be. It is through his own vanity that he becomes the beast of Hyde and permanently mars the good name and reputation of an upstanding scientist. It's a sad story. A love lost and lives broken and yet we often overlook the psychological and animal question for the more common two-faced cliche. Jekyll always had his hand in the honey pot. He's the big bad bear. Is his concoction an excuse? Is this a tale of temperance worthy of Mary Hatchet? Or a monster movie? A simple horror picture?
Pick up Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Kino NOW!
I recommend this to fans of Universal horror who think they've seen monsters in Bela and Boris and need to see the monsters that came before (on par with the great Lon Chaney or German Expressionist horror pictures).
From the bowels and brains of American International to the rib cage and eye sockets of Amicus, Doc Terror will write your eyes shut from the prehistory to the post apocalypse of horror.Doc Terror is a contributor to The Liberal Dead and The Dead Air Podcast.