Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1920 with Looking for Sally 1925
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(Jun 22, 2015)
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DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920)
and LOOKING FOR SALLY (1925)
DR. JEKYLL AND MR HYDE starring John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Brandon Hurst, Charles Lane, Nita Naldi and Louis Wolheim . Directed by John S. Robertson. Shot in New York between Barrymore's Broadway appearances in "The Jest" and "Richard III", this is a faithful adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella about the good and evil natures that co-exist within man. The charitable and idealistic Dr. Jekyll, after being tempted by the dubious pleasures to be found in an immoral life, creates a tonic that separates the good and evil within him, becoming the monstrous Mr. Hyde. It isn't long before Jekyll loses control of his transformations, resulting in murder and horror. A superb and atmospheric production with fine performances all around. Look for Walter Long in a tiny, uncredited role!
LOOKING FOR SALLY (1925) starring Charley Chase, Katherine Grant and Noah Young. Directed by Leo McCarey. Another film that deals with the subject of identity - this time mistaken! Upon his return from Europe, the fondest wish of Charley's parents is that he marry his childhood sweetheart, Sally Kavanaugh. The two, who haven't seen each other in years andmistake each other at the dock. This leads to a wild ride of confusion with Charley being pursued by a cop, a suspicious detective and being mistaken for a lunatic!
Original music scores composed and performed by Stuart Oderman!
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Directed by John S. Robertson, it is a fairly faithful rendition of Stevenson's novel and perfectly captures the period of 19th century London. Barrymore delivers a tour de force dual performance, and his transformation into the malevolent Mr. Hyde is a chilling study in pantomime. As the character degenerates further, Barrymore's features become more hideous, his movements more spider-like as he preys upon his female victims. One of these hapless women is played by the exotic Nita Naldi, who projects a potent eroticism that is enough to tempt the latent, lustful desires of Barrymore's good Dr. Jekyll.
Compared to later versions of the famous tale, this excellent silent classic holds its own and has a grim feeling of decay that the others somehow lack. Much of this is due to Barrymore - he really is creepy as Hyde, and while he did use some makeup, it's mostly through facial and bodily contortions that the characterization was realised. Add Roy Overbaugh's shadowy cinematography, and the final effect is splendidly eerie and atmospheric.
Kino/Lorber's Deluxe Edition Blu-ray has been newly remastered from a 35mm archival negative, and features an appropriately melodramatic music score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The image quality surpasses Kino's previous DVD, although some minor wear due to age is still apparent. Two brief sections were obtained from a lesser quality source, but this is the only existing material on the footage. The film is presented with tinting that isn't overly saturated. The boost to HD definitely justifies an upgrade, and I enjoy watching DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE even more, what with all the detail clarity I can now see. Even with the physical ravages of time, this Blu-ray is the next best thing to seeing the actual print - which we would expect to contain wear anyway.
Extra features have been bumped over from the DVD: the 1912 Thanhouser version starring James Cruze; a 15 minute excerpt from a 1920 rival version produced by Louis B. Mayer; DR. PYCKLE AND MR. PRIDE, a 1925 parody starring Stan Laurel; and a 1909 audio recording of "The Transformation Scene."
If you love classic screen horror, this influential film belongs in your collection. I gladly give it my highest recommendation.