Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1920

Hell o Prisoners

The journey begins...Movie #1, Disc #1, 5-disc set "50 Greatest Horror Films." That remains to be seen.

Watching Paramount-Artcraft Pictures, Lasky Corporation's, original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring John Barrymore, which gives credence to the Barrymore legacy of Hollywood stardom. Barrymore's transformation from Doctor to the lecherous Hyde is beyond comparison. Regan rose from her bed, but Barrymore rose to the occasion with no special effects, literally lurching in mid air in convulsions, truly a sight to behold. To say his role of Hyde is terrifying is an understatement. The contortion of his face once morphed is extraordinary, and for lack of a better word, disgusting, and scary as hell. Barrymore's Hyde totally creeps me out, and with no CGI, color, or voice over involved.

John S. Robertson directs this must-see gem. In order for Barrymore to keep his commitments performing on Broadway at the time, most of the filming was at the Amsterdam Opera House in Manhattan, but you are transported to Soho, in the bowels of London. The story begins with the words....

"In each of us,, two natures are at war--the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them and one of them must conquer. But in our hands lies the power to choose--what we want most to be we are."

Fortunately for me, but not for Jekyll, the good loses.

Barrymore, philanthropist and progressive Doctor, succumbs to peer pressure after the the father of his beloved Millicent (Martha Mansfield) poses his secret to what gauges the strength of the male character. "A strong man fear nothing. A weak man fears experience...A man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying his impulses. The only  way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." These words of unwisdom uttered by Sir George Carew (Brandon Hurst) trigger Jekyll's demise. He questions Jekyll's perception of the development of character, and heeds no concern to the preservation of the soul. Which character? "Which self?" he asks, "A man has two--as he has two hands. Because I use my right hand, should I never use my left?" "What's the matter? Afraid of temptation?" Second guessing himself in what truly builds a man's character, Jekyll joins Carew and his crony friends to a London music hall, where he "awakens his baser nature" after watching the Italian dancer, Miss Gina (Nita Naldi.) Carew has his friend, Evenson, (Cecil Clovelly) approach the manager of the Hall, and asks that Miss Gina "meet" the susceptible Jekyll.

They chat a bit and Jekyll notices a large ring, a "bauble" on Gina's finger and asks about it. She shares the story of the ring. It opens and once held poison used by a father to murder an unwanted suitor of his daughter. Although he doesn't heed Gina's advances, it does get him thinking, and once he gets home, he shares his revelation with Dr. Lanyon (Charles Lane), conservative Doctor and friend. "Wouldn't it be marvelous if the two natures in a man could be separated--housed in different bodies?" Lanyon is appalled, accusing him of playing God and nearing sacrilege. But this doesn't suppress Jekyll's new found curiosity, and so he begins to work and work and work, holding up in his lab for days and weeks, working on his experiment to create another self, until finally he succeeds.

One drink of the potion and wah lah Hyde enters the picture. Complete with cone head, long straggly hair, elongated fingers with grimy overgrown fingernails, stoop, contorted features and all. His transformation is truly amazing. He's a total spaz. Regan rises from her bed with the help of special effects, but Barrymore takes air and falls flat, flat on his back. No wires, no stunt man. It's awesome.

Once back in full Jekyll form, he gives Hyde full license of his home and lab via his servant, Poole (George Stevens). He rents a dingy room in Soho, revisits the Hall and buys Miss Gina, and holds her there to do with what he wants. He soon tires of her and kicks her out on the street, keeping her ring, but we see her again when he visits a local opium den to get a new victim to keep him company. After checking out the offerings, he settles on a girl that resembles his beloved Millicent. It is left to the imagination what he does with her.

Meanwhile back at the Carew household, Millicent is getting worried about Jekyll's absence and asks her father to seek him out. He finds him, and although Hyde has had quite a time, Jekyll hates what he's become and blames Carew. He makes visits Millicent at the request of Utterson (J. Malcom Dunn), who truly loves Millicent but was rejected by her due to her love of Jekyll, however he is strung out and distracted, feeling overwhelming wretched and remorseful and thus leaves. He's running out of the drug though, and in a bit of film magic, while Jekyll is sleeping, he is visited by a phantom spider from hell who turns him into Hyde with no drug at all. He's lost control of himself and the drug.

The agony is too much. When Carew visits him, he changes into Hyde, and beats the culprit, whom he blames for everything, foregoing any type of accountability or free will, to death. The local bobbies, Lanyon, Millicent, and Utterson become involved, and after a tip from Poole who suspects the murderer to be Hyde, they finally track him down in Jekyll lab, but not before Jekyll ingested the residual poison left in the bauble. Alone in Jekyll's lab, Lanyon sees the dead Hyde transform where he sits back to Jekyll. Perhaps to save Jekyll's reputation, but more importantly, the heart of Millicent, he reports that Hyde has killed Jekyll. Millicent enters and grieves over her beloved.

The obvious irony....what he thought might help him strengthen his character, according to Carew, weakened it to nonexistence.

A masterpiece. Five out of five flames, and so far, the title of the 50 greatest horror films ever filmed on this 5 disc CD set I purchased holds true. 49 more to go. Until next time, keep those fires burning.
Eternally yours
Warden Stokely


  1. Beautifully written friend. This movie is nothing short of a masterpiece. I like what you got going on here, great page!

    I just followed you. Hope to see more reviews like this in the future.

    If you wanna chat more horror, swing by my page.

    1. Thanks, Grimm. I did indeed check out your site, and I was floored and honored that you thought highly enough of me to follow and comment. I appreciate it. It's obvious you've been doing this for some time, so I will not only enjoy your reviews, interviews, pics, tips, and sense of humor, I'll learn from you, too. The bars are set pretty high now, but hey, I'm the Warden, I have the master keys. Tonight it's John Carradine in Bluebeard, 1944,...#2 in the set. We'll see just how hot it is, by it's flame rating. . Thanks again, Grim. I'll keep you posted.

  2. Great write-up, Stokely. I'm a little ashamed to confess I've never seen this version of Jekyll and Hyde. I really need to get my hands on a copy. I've seen a few stills from it over the years - the phantom spider being one I remember most; it just looks so fantastically creepy.

    Are you making your way through a box set of fifty classic horror titles? I love that! Such a great idea.

    1. Hi James!
      Thanks for stopping by! And that's affirmative. Here's the scivy. It was my first post, many moons ago, and life finally let me start. Fifty Classic Horror Films. Somehow, since then, I kinda forgot and substituted "Classic" with "Greatest," and quite frankly, I need to come clean, and go back to just using the original title of the set, which was indeed "50 Classic Horror Films." It surely better suits the set. I've seen many of them before, so am revisiting, and I'm learning so much. Even viewing the first four, I'm seeing other players, since I'm paying more attention, rather than our standard Universal and American International, identified with repeat Directors, (Ulmer), and Production Companies (Monogram), and in just a short time, I've learned from you guys too. For instance, I heard the scores, but I never really listened to them, so thanks!. And "meeting" others with the same devotion, is astounding, so it's a ton of fun, and an excellent learning experience for me. Will continue the concept with another set when I finish, as well as expand the site with fresh content within the supplemental pages.

      I'm sure my idea was conceived from purely selfish motives. I can justify sitting and watching 50 movies! haha, and since I'm a horror fan/History major, I can practice my research, analysis, and writing, in hopes of sharpening and maintaining the tools I learned in college, while expanding my knowledge base of my beloved genre. It's a win win. I'm having a blast.

      With regard to Jekyll and Hyde. You can YouTube it. I have it on my disc, but the morning I watched it, I actually YouTubed it.