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(Review originally written at 13 September 2006)

This is one of the earliest (but not the earliest) movie version of the famous story of Jekyll & Hyde, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who also wrote the novel Treasure Island, among other works. It's one of the best movie versions but at the same time also probably the least known. Movies from the '20's don't really reach a wide audience. People probably only know the '31 and '41 versions of this movie. A shame, since lots of '20's deserve some more recognition from a wider audience. They're artistic, style-full and overall also well written and impressive. The images themselves had to be speaking for itself and had to be impressive of course since the images basically were the only tool to tell the story and all its emotions with. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is one of those '20's movies that deserves more credit and fame than its currently getting.

The movie is very well made and the story is extremely solid written and features some interesting elements. The way Dr. Jekyll is torn between his evil and good side is brought effectively to the screen. The movie is basically about the battle between good and evil, only this time set into the mind of one man. It is mainly due to the solid written story that this premise works out so well and effective.

Of course also the acting helps a lot to tell the story with. Conform '20's style, every actor goes over-the-top in his performance, with exaggerated movements and facial expressions. Especially Cecil Clovelly goes way too over-the-top in his role. Also of course John Barrymore does this, especially when he is turned into Mr. Hyde. But nevertheless every actor feels well cast and plays his or her role with lots of profession. The still very young looking John Barrymore is good in his role as both Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde and he plays both roles convincing, despite going a bit too much over-the-top at moments.

The movie only features a bit too many unnecessary characters that don't add enough, or anything at all to the story. On top of that there also are some needless sequences, which don't seem to serve a purpose. Such as the Italian historical sequences, told by Gina. Yes, it serves a purpose later for the story but it could had easily been done in a more simple and shorter way, to make the movie flow better.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is its look. The sets look impressively detailed, although the entire movie is obviously filmed on a stage. Also the costumes and make-up are good, as are the impressive looking early special effects, which also adds to the horror of this movie.

Yes, as an horror movie this movie also works well. It's atmosphere feels dark and the Mr. Hyde character makes sure that the movie always remains unpredictable as well as both tense and scary.

The ending is very well written and also works very effective. It's well thought out and handled and provides the movie with an impressive and memorable ending, which might also come quite unexpected, since it's not an happy one.

A must-see for the fans of the story and horror fans in general.

8/10

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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