Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde Film Review 1920
Directed by John S Robertson
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson (Story), Clara s Beranger, Thomas Russell Sullivan and Oscar Wilde
Starring John Barrymore, Charles Lane, Martha Mansfield and Brandon Hurst
Fimed In Black and White and Silent
Dr Henry Jekyll is a brilliant young Doctor who combines the furthering of medical science with a side that sees him caring for the homeless and poor who are sick. Jekyll is courting a pretty young woman who's father thinks that Jekyll needs to explore both sides of human nature. After an uncomfortable new life experience Jekyll uses his scientific expertise to discover mans darker side with dire consequences.
Dr Henry Jekyll is in conversation with his colleague, Dr Richard Lanyon and trying to impress upon him what he believes will be the future of Medical Progression. Lanyon is old school and reminds Jekyll about the basics of medicine and how men should not mess with things that only God should have rule over! Jekyll is then seen displaying his caring side, in 'The Human Repair Shop', he volunteers his great services to the poor and homeless who fall sick and do not have the means to pay for a Doctor to treat them. It is in this environment that he excels as he only wants to use his talents for good.
At the house of Sir George Carew, gentlemen of establishment and a group of young ladies are taking dinner. When the gentlemen retire to talk and the ladies are left to their own devices, the discussion turns to Henry Jekyll. Jekyll has been invited to the dinner as a guest of Carew as he is courting his daughter, Millicent. All of the conversation about Jekyll is complimentary and all alludes to his giving nature and his striving to further medicine to aid mankind. When Jekyll arrives, Carew questions him on this caring nature and explains that a man has 2 sides, and to be whole, they most both be satisfied. To prove this, Carew takes Jekyll and the rest of the gentlemen to a Music Hall to sample the more 'common' side of London's underbelly. Carew sets Jekyll up by inviting an alluring young singer to come over to their booth and be with Jekyll. He is confused and upset by this encounter, as his feelings are those that he has not felt before and he seemed to not be in control of his thoughts.
To this end Jekyll decides to use his skills to separate the 2 halves of man. He spends days in his laboratory trying to discover an elixir that will separate the side of him that desires the flesh and excitement and baser nature of all that is human from the decent and caring and loving.
When Jekyll does discover a drug that will let him be both the gentleman and the beast he indulges in all of life's wicked vices. But will his ability to create a dual personality that enables him to experience all of his desires be a great discovery for man or a curse to be avoided?
Based on the 1886 Novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, this 1920 version of the story is closer to the stage play that played in 1887. In this story the character of Millicent Carew was introduced as a love interest for Henry Jekyll and the singer, Miss Gina, became the lover of Mr Hyde.
The first text board of the film reads, 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. A quote of foreboding and warning that what you are about to see is a battle between what lies everyone of us.
The acting within the film is brilliant silent style, all of the actors in the piece throw themselves in to their emotions and draw you in to their every pain, joy, fear and love. I'm quite sure that a lot of the uncredited people that we see in the film have never acted before this feature and never did again, but in these faces we see the most passion to make you feel and believe what they are trying to convey without words. But in the end the visuals of this piece are all about John Barrymore's phenomenal ability to create the sensitive and demur Dr Jekyll and then explode with the Monstrous and distorted figure of Mr Hyde. The first transformation in the film is particularly mind blowing in that Barrymore actually disfigures his face during the scene (it is said that he possibly dislocated his jaw) to create a visage that one can scarcely believe is the same man. On his many outings as the hideous Mr Hyde Barrymore throws himself about the set like a possessed mad man. It truly is a frightening display from a brilliant actor.
From the point of view of a Black and White film, this really delivers. We are thoroughly entertained by the atmospheric orchestral music, that creates both beautiful settings for the intimate moments and dark foreboddingness real note of them, the images that adorn them mirror the scene that they accompany. I also like the fact the actor is introduced on the board when they appear for the first time in the film.
A truly wonderful film that's portrays the darker side of human nature and could show Hollywood how to make a Black and White silent film!