Combustible Celluloid
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With: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert, Halliwell Hobbes, Edgar Norton, Tempe Pigott
Written by: Samuel Hoffenstein, Percy Heath, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Directed by: Rouben Mamoulian
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 98
Date: 12/31/1931

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Beyond the Pale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) may be the finest of all the screen adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel. In the lead role, Fredric March's transformation from Jekyll to Hyde is still startling and, frankly, terrifying. The superb makeup was certainly part of it, but March's skill was the finishing touch. He won an Oscar for his work, and is one of only a handful of folks to win for a horror movie. The sensual Miriam Hopkins is also excellent as the bar singer who flirts with Jekyll and becomes an object of obsession for Hyde. Most of this raw, bodily stuff would not have been allowed just a few years later, after the introduction of the Hays Code.

Stevenson's novel has been filmed dozens of times, but most famously in 1920 with John Barrymore, and in 1941 with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman. And of course there have been dozens of variations on it, ranging from Boris Karloff's portrayal in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to John Malkovich's version in Mary Reilly. The 1931 version was released on a double-feature DVD alongside the 1941 version, but it's unfortunately out of print now and difficult to find.

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