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