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Monday, October 25, 2010

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1920)

Robert Louis Stevenson's novella THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE has spawned nearly 100 film adaptations in various forms. This silent version directed by John S. Robertson is one of the most famous, principally because of the highly praised, tour de force performance of John Barrymore in the lead role. Barrymore eschewed make up for much of his performance, preferring instead to rely on his facial expressions. His Hyde is a marvel of debauchery and cruelty and the film includes the notorious child stomping sequence often omitted from most film versions. Stevenson's novella lacked any female protagonists and Robertson's film introduced two, the pure Millicent (Martha Mansfield) and the music hall tart (Nita Naldi), that have found their way into subsequent film adaptations, notably the 1931 Rouben Mamoulian and the 1941 Victor Fleming versions. As a horror film, it's of interest more historically than as a classic piece of cinema as the story has been better served cinematically elsewhere. For acting buffs, it's de rigueur for Barrymore's performance. With Louis Wolheim and Brandon Hurst.

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