Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

Director: John S. Robertson

Writers: Clara Beranger, from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson

Stars: John Barrymore, Brandon Hurst, Martha Mansfield, Charles Lane, Cecil Clovelly, Nita Naldi, Louis Wolheim

An early silent film version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale about the duality of man, as an idealistic young doctor (John Barrymore) attempts to give free rein to his baser nature without tarnishing his soul by developing a serum that will embody his id in a separate being.  

Barrymore gives an extraordinary performance.  

His transformation into Mr. Hyde is accomplished largely without any special effects, and the result is a truly loathsome character.  

This is not the powerful brute that Edward Hyde is portrayed as in so many other adaptations, but a slimy character that inspires disgust in all who see him.  

As such, he is truer to the film’s subtext as a metaphor for drug and alcohol addiction.  

The story is very familiar to us, although I suppose it would have been much fresher at the time of the film’s release in 1920, but it clips along at a good pace.


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