Review: ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’

The fundamental story is that a brilliant scientist turns himself into an ogre who goes upon orgies of lust and murder in peaceful London, all in a misguided frenzy of scientific research, and after murdering a number of other people by extremely horrifying means, destroys himself. That was the length and breadth of the stage play [from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson], and it served in that form for years.

The fundamental story is that a brilliant scientist turns himself into an ogre who goes upon orgies of lust and murder in peaceful London, all in a misguided frenzy of scientific research, and after murdering a number of other people by extremely horrifying means, destroys himself. That was the length and breadth of the stage play [from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson], and it served in that form for years.

The picture is infinitely better art – indeed, in many passages it is an astonishing fine bit of interpreting a classic, but as popular fare it loses in vital reaction.

Camera trick of changing a central figure from the handsome Fredric March into the bestial, ape-like monster Hyde, carries a terrific punch, but in each successive use of the device – and it is repeated four times – it weakens in hair-raising effort.

March does an outstanding bit of theatrical acting. His Hyde make-up is a triumph of realized nightmare. Other people in the cast matter little, except that Miriam Hopkins plays Ivy, the London soiled dove, with a capital sense of comedy and coquetry that contributes to the subsequent horror build-up.

Settings and lighting alone are worth seeing as models of atmospheric surroundings.

1931/32: Best Actor (Fredric March).

Nominations: Best Adaptation, Cinematography

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Production

Paramount. Director Rouben Mamoulian; Producer Rouben Mamoulian; Screenplay Samuel Hoffenstein, Percy Heath; Camera Karl Struss

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1932. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Fredric March Miriam Hopkins Rose Hobart Holmes Herbert Edgar Norton Halliwell Hobbes

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