Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

(with John Barrymore)
Article #179 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-11-2001
Posting date: 1-25-2002

Dr. Jekyll tries to separate his bad self from his good and creates a monstrous fiend called Mr. Hyde.

The IMDB lists three movies called DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE as belonging to the year 1920. I’ve already covered the Sheldon Lewis version, and the third is an alternate title to DER JANUSKOPF (which is lost). This is the best of the silent versions of this story, at least of those that are extant; more than ten different versions were known to have existed. John Barrymore is very good in both roles, looking especially depraved as the long-fingered Mr. Hyde. There’s a memorable scene where Dr. Jekyll suffers nightmares of Mr. Hyde in the form of a giant spider, making this an early entry into the giant bug sub-genre of science fiction. It pretty much follows the same story as the other versions, but there is at least one intriguing aspect of this one, and that lies in the character of his betrothed’s father, Sir George Carew (played by Brandon Hurst); in this movie, the character is a variation on the Lord Henry Wotton character in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. He is the one who tempts Dr. Jekyll into his experiments while at the same time standing in the way of his marriage to his daughter. This makes for a fascinating relationship between the characters, and I think it’s a shame that none of the remakes of this movie that I have seen have borrowed this relationship.

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