Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (Blu-ray Review) - Kino

Directed By: John S. Robertson
Written By: Clara S. Beranger
Starring: John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Brandon Hurst
Color Tinted/79 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A

The Film
The classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson gets adapted for the silver screen in this silent era classic from director John S. Robertson starring John Barrymore. Dr. Jekyll (Barrymore) is a brilliant, handsome young man dedicated to serving others whether in his laboratory or helping the less fortunate in his free clinic. Dr. Carew (Hurst), the father of his fiancee Millicent (Mansfield), teases and taunts Jekyll about not experiencing the more pleasurable and sensual side of life, asking the young doctor ""In devoting yourself to others, Jekyll, aren't you neglecting the development of your own life?" Jekyll takes this to heart and begins experimenting with the idea that each person is actually comprised of 2 beings, one of which we largely suppress but he feels it may be possible to keep the soul clean while living out two very different existences at any given time. 

Jekyll's drug works, transforming him into a nasty looking, twisted version of a man, with long, stringy hair, an elongated, sunken face and finger nails that would make any witch cringe in disgust. This is Mr. Hyde. Jekyll informed his caretaker to give Mr. Hyde full use of the house as he pleases and Hyde uses it as a place to hide from the people he disgusts, attacks and the police who want to capture this hideous beast of a man. Jekyll's own life is falling apart as Hyde is taking more and more control over his being. Millicent sinks into a depression wondering why her lover has seemingly abandoned her, and Dr. Carew is concerned for Jekyll's safety as he vanishes for days on end. It is when the drug that Jekyll needs to reverse the transformation into Hyde is depleted all across London that Jekyll locks himself away fearing that Hyde may appear at any moment, and when Millicent comes to check on him and Hyde rears his ugly head that Jekyll finds enough of his prior self within to end his own life before he hurts the woman he loves. 

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE  is a very well made silent horror film, lead by an excellent performance from John Barrymore in the dual titular roles. His wise, soft and caring nature as Jekyll plays perfectly with his devious, slithering and menacing mannerisms as the grotesque Hyde. There have been uglier portrayals of Hyde in film but the simplicity found within this early adaptation really works well. Early on in the Hyde transformations there wasn't even makeup used for the Hyde effects, just Barrymore manipulating and contorting his face. The set pieces are good, with foggy London streets playing a big part, along with the lab and a music club. For anyone looking for early horror classics or really well done silent films DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is definitely worth a look.

The Audio & Video
Kino delivers DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE on Blu-ray with a 1.33:1 full frame transfer sourced from 35mm archival elements maintaining the films original aspect ratio. The picture looks quite good for a film nearly a century old with clarity and detail being quite strong. The color tints look very pretty for the various settings and while the picture is full of speckling and scratches the picture quality overall is in good condition. For those who have seen Kino's release of Nosferatu on Blu-ray, JEKYLL AND HYDE has a bit better PQ in my opinion. The score to the film is the only sound of course, and was performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The track is crisp and clear with no notable disturbances.

The Extras
 This disc is loaded with awesome extras which include:

-Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1912 Thanhouser Version) - Early short film adaptation of the story that played in nickelodeons.
-Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (Rival 1920 Version) - A 15 minute cut of another adaptation from 1920
-Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride - A 1925 slapstick parody starring Stan Laurel
-"The Transformation Scene" - A rare 1909 audio recording

The Bottom Line
The excellent job Kino did on the film's presentation is enough reason to check this disc out but the awesome extras that help tie the history of this story's early film adaptations together is just as big a reason.


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