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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

USA 1931
produced by
Adolph Zukor (executive), Rouben Mamoulian for Paramount
directed by Rouben Mamoulian
starring Frederic March, Mariam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert, Halliwell Hobbes, Edgar Norton, Tempe Pigott
based on The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Jekyll and Hyde

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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London, late 19th century:  Doctor Jekyll (Frederic March) wants to marry his fiancée Muriel (Rose Hobart), but her father, the General (Hobbes Halliwell) won't agree to their wedding for another 8 months. So, out of (sexual) frustration, Jekyll buries himself in his research, as he tries to prove there are 2 sides to the human soul - & he wants to develop a serum to seperate them. But as he tests the serum on himself, what he didn't expect was that it would allow his evil - lusting - side to take over.

Transformed into the ugly, ape-like Hyde, he visits ill-reputed music halls & soon picks up seductive floozy Ivy (Mariam Hopkins), who once tried to use her charms on Doctor Jekyll - & she might have succeeded, too, hadn't Jekyll's friend Lanyon (Holmes Herbert) stepped in just in time.

At first, Jekyll is shocked by his own indecent behaviour as Hyde, but when the General sends Musiel away from London for a month, Jekyll takes his drug ever more regularly, & soon he becomes a regular at music-halls & other ill-reputed businesses & holds Ivy as his personal mistress - even though she grows more & m ore frightened of Hyde.

When Muriel comes back to London, Jekyll decides to put a halt to his sinful double life, & even manages to persuade the General to an earlier wedding date. &, to make up for the evil he has done to Ivy, he sends her some money. Everything would be alright now, until - just when he is intending to go to his engagenment celebration - Ivy shows up at Jekyll's home to thank him for his money & care in person & begs him to help her against Hyde - not knowing that he is Hyde of course. Jekyll guarantees Ivy that Hyde will never come back, but the seductive looks & behaviour of the girl soon bring his Hyde-p4ersona to the fore again - even without the drug - & so, instead of going to his own engagement party, he goes to Ivy's home to kill her, then has to flee the police as his crime didn't go unnoticed.

As he has thrown away the key to his house's backdoor & his butler won'T let the weird-looking Hyde in the front door, he has to rely on Lanyon to get him the drugs & hand them over to Hyde - but Lanyon has the intention to uncover the mystery& is niot contempt until he sees Hyde transform back to Jekyll before his very eyes - then he forces Jekyll to destroy the drug & give up Muriel to not cause her any harm as well.

Griefingly, Jekyll agrees, but when the next day he breaks up with Muriel, Hyde takes over again & only  the servant's at Muriel's place & a couple of policemen can stop him from raping &/or murdering the girl. Hyde can flee, & return to his lab just in time to take the serum that turns him to Jekyll again, but when Lanyon & the police arrive at Jekyll's house , he transforms into Hyde again, & only a bullet can stop him now ...

 

Porduced just months away from the implement of the movie-indutstry's self-censorship lovingly called the Code, this version of Robert L.Stevenson's classic novel fittingly plays up the sexual angle of the tale & is very direct - but not explicit - in its imagery, which proves a deeper understanding of its source novel, & also makes this probably the best adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde.

Most later versions would either downplay the sexual overones in favour of a more conventional monster-story (1941's Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde by Victor Fleming) or suffocate any deeper meaning with overt sexual scenes (as in Dr.Jekyll & Mistress Hyde [2002] by Tony Marsiglia).

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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