(Review originally written at 11 August 2006)
Everybody knows the famous Universal classic monster movies "Dracula" and "Frankenstein", which both are also from 1931. Not nearly as many people known or have seen this movie, that in my opinion is just as good and worthy of the 'classic' status as both of those two movies.
This movie quite surprised me honestly. I expected this movie to be good but not that good, as it turned out it was. It's a great story told with lots of creativity. It makes the story tense and compelling and the action even spectacular. The story itself on its own is already great but it becomes even better and more powerful through the way it is told in the movie.
Above all the movie is a very beautiful one that is filled with symbolism and creatively put together sequences. The entire movie has some great looking costumes and settings and is brilliantly filmed. Especially the cinematography is fantastic. The movie is filled with sequences that are shot from Jekyll's point of view. It provides the movie with some very special moments, although those sequences seem pretty random to be honest. The best moment with this is the begin sequence, which lasts about 4 minutes (although it obviously has some cuts in it) and is shot entirely from Jekyll's point of view and it has some creative moments in it, such as use of shadow and mirror look. It's not that realistic looking but it's creative and refreshing nevertheless.
The story is about the eternal battle of good versus evil, only this time set in the mind of one person. The sequences were the main character switches between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are well balanced, with as a result that both characters, which are the same but yet so totally different, work out just as well. It makes the drama feel realistic and sensible and the 'horror' tense and unpredictable.
The movie certainly benefits from Frederich March's performance, as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He plays both the characters totally differently and at times it's hard to believe both characters are performed by the main character. He is very believable in both parts, which are completely different from each other. He plays Dr. Jekyll sensible and Mr. Hyde deliciously villainous and monstrous. Also the other actors play fine. Rose Hobart perhaps goes a bit too over-the-top but Miriam Hopkins on the other hand was great.
Of course the make up effects and camera tricks are extremely outdated by todays standard but they are at least not as laughable as you would expect. Especially the make up for Mr. Hyde looks quite good.
I also was surprised by this movie its sexual tension and references. Miriam Hopkins shows quite some skin and does some daring things. Overall the sequences with Hyde and Ivy, the name of the Mirian Hopkins character, are dripping with sexual tension. Quite amazing for an 1931 movie and it came quite unexpected for me. But it makes the movie all the more refreshing and original. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is far from your standard '30's monster movie.
Normally '30's pictures end quite abruptly without a real big-bang and are a sort of a let down. Not "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". It's ending is tense, action filled and even quite spectacular.
It's a very creative and refreshing movie from director Rouben Mamoulian, who directed quite some good movie's in the '30's and '40's but still is a sort of forgotten director. Just like the other 1931 monster movies "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" this is an absolute must-see, that at least is just as good, if not better at certain moments.