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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) - Blu-ray Review

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1920 - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

“Because I use my right hand, should I never use my left?  This is the question Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde asks viewers and then, with nihilistic precision, explores with dusky shadows and fantastic effects.  What we have in this silent film from 1920 is a mystical look at goodness in the face of a challenge to accept the very face of evil.  And the result is violent and shocking as John Barrymore plows the depths of his soul and locks all loved ones out.

Based upon Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the horror film – directed by John S. Robertson – is a haunting tale of identity and heartbreak.  Barrymore plays Henry Jekyll, an idealist who always gives his attention to the needy.  When pressed to live for himself at a dinner party, Dr. Jekyll begins experimenting with ways to have the two sides of every man live separately.  The experiments go wrong and Dr. Jekyll is overtaken by the deformed Mr. Hyde (also Barrymore).

Friends Edward Enfield (Cecil Clovelly), Dr. Lanyon (Charles Lane) and Utterson (J. Malcolm Dunn) wonder what has become of their friend.  Sir George Carew (Brandon Hurst), the father of Jekyll’s fiancée, Millicent (Martha Mansfield), wonders how he can associate himself with someone as vile as Hyde.  No one knows the truth that Jekyll is the wildly dangerous Hyde due to a potion that he drinks.  And, yet, only Jekyll can stop Hyde once and for all.  Until then, no one is safe.

While not the first cinematic version of Stevenson’s cautionary tale, this adaptation works due to the silent performance of a hunched over Barrymore.  With just a wig, some make-up, and prosthetic hands Barrymore captivates as the horrific Hyde.  He’s a maniac on the prowl and the performance – while maybe not as frightening for today’s teenager – is a disturbing one.  Robertson’s well-managed sets are just as disturbing.  Cramped and confined, the claustrophobic sets are nightmarish in design and chilling on the screen.

The film probably isn’t a classic of the horror genre but the performance of Barrymore makes it a must-see for anyone interested in film and its history.  The Hyde fanatics will disagree with the total assessment of the film, arguing that there is more to the film than just Barrymore, I suppose.  They just can’t argue with that classic performance.  Barrymore is intense and captivating and, considering this film was made in 1920, he is a definite must-see as the twisted Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime:
79 mins
Director
: John S. Robertson
Writer
: Clara Beranger
Cast:
John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Brandon Hurst
Genre
: Horror| Silent
Tagline:
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Memorable Movie Quote: "Your really strong man fears nothing. It is the weak one that is afraid of - - experience."
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Release Date:
April 1920
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 28, 2014

Synopsis: Dr. Henry Jekyll experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1920 - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
4 stars
 
4 stars
Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 28, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.25:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This 1080p transfer from Kino Classics has been “mastered in HD from a 35mm negative. The film is now more than ninety years old, so it's unsurprising that scenes vary in quality. A few shots are quite badly damaged to the point where the image is severely degraded. For the most part, however, the image quality is fairly strong considering the age of the material; even the best of shots are still a bit soft, but the worn look feels appropriate for the material.  The accompanying musical score is “compiled by Rodney Sauer (and) performed by the Mount Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.”  It's presented with an LPCM 2.0 mix that gives it an appropriate sense of richness. The English intertitles are not supported by any subtitles.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Kino has imported most of the extras from their 2004 DVD release to this disc with one addition.  Carried over from the 2004 SD are the following:  An excerpt (15 min.) from the rival 1920 version produced by Louis B. Mayer which was rushed into production to capitalize on the success of Barrymore's turn. What we see here isn't too impressive.  Somewhat more enjoyable is “Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride” (1925), a Stan Laurel silent film parody of the Stevenson classic also survives the update. A 1909 audio recording from Columbia Records (3 min.) featuring novelty recording artist Len Spencer enacting the final “Transformation Scene” from the story.  The only new addition is the 1912 version of Jekyll and Hyde, produced by the Thanhouser Film Corporation and starring James Cruze.

  • The 1912 Version (14 min)
  • The Rival 1920 Version (20 min)
  • Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (17 min)
  • 1909 Audio Recording (3 min)

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