Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Barrymore, Brandon Hurst, Martha Mansfield, Charles Lane, Cecil Clovelly, Nita Naldi, Louis Wolheim
Written by: Clara S. Beranger, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Directed by: John S. Robertson
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 73
Date: 04/12/1920

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Beast Within

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Barrymore stars in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), perhaps the first worthwhile adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, and considered the first major American horror film. Barrymore changes from doctor to monster with the aid of special effects, but his performance is energetic throughout. (Known as "the great profile," it's funny to watch as Barrymore performs at least half the movie while facing either stage left and stage right.) One great sequence shows a giant spider crawling onto Barrymore's bed. John S. Robertson directed.

Kino Lorber released a deluxe Blu-ray edition in early 2014. It claims to be mastered from 35mm elements, though some of the images appear a bit soft. There are the usual amount of scratches, but the disc looks quite good for a film of this age. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra provides the score. Extras include a complete 1912 film version of the story (12 minutes), and an excerpt from another, less successful 1920 version. There's also a very funny Stan Laurel short from 1925, Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride, wherein the evil creature merely plays practical jokes on innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, the short appears to be missing something at the end. Finally, there's an audio recording from 1909 of "the Transformation Scene."

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