Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Classics - DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920) on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kino Classics - DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920) on Blu-ray

My first exposure to the infamous characters from the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story was via the equally classic Looney Tunes short cartoon, "Hyde And Hare", where Bugs Bunny encountered the legendary man/monster:

It may have been one of the first things I ever saw that both scared me and fascinated me. it wasn't until years and years later that I ever saw any kind of live-action rendition of the tale. In fact, I didn't even see the classic Fredric March version of the film until just last year!
John Barrymore is one of those actors with an incredibly expressive face. I'd compare him to 'ol rubberface himself, Jim Carrey, but it'd be doing Barrymore a disservice (and that's not to say Jim Carrey is not a good actor, as I really believe he is, but they are just quite different).  I'd mostly seen him in comedies and dramas wherein he was only given smaller opportunities to use his face in the way he was capable. Here, as a man and a monster, his face is given the opportunity to really show its stuff. Barrymore is of that generation of true Hollywood stars. It may have something to do with the medium being newer, and perhaps the way actors were photographed back then along with the style of acting that was prevalent lead to some larger iconography but regardless, the big acting giants of this era were truly iconic and remain so even today. Barrymore was just a magical performer overall and having been much more familiar with his sound film output as I said, it was of course quite revelatory to see him in an early silent role like this. It's obvious to say I suppose, but seeing him here I was reminded of how much the onus was on actors in silent films to carry so much emotion with their faces and their bodies alone. Barrymore can be, by nature, kind of a "big" performance kinda guy and seeing him do things like react to drinking his own potion for the first time or peeking through his newly transformed creepy, boney fingers might seem a little much for a contemporary audience. I found myself thinking back to this film's first run and imagining just how horrifying and unsettling it must have been for audiences in 1920 to see such an unhinged portrayal. The images of Barrymore combined with the gothic organ tones that must have been drifting through the theaters must have made the whole experience extremely surreal. It must have been rather mindblowing. This movie is afterall considered by some to be one of the earliest American horror films ever made. There's something pretty neat about that to me. This idea of mass audiences experiencing the rush of vicarious fear we've all come to love about watching horror films. I can't even begin to process what that must have been like when it was happening for the first time. There's also something really cool about John Barrymore was sort of one of the first icons of horror.

This Kino Classics Blu-ray has a number of supplements on top of looking very nice. The musical score, compiled by Rodney Sauer and was performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, works perfectly for one thing. Beyond that, the disc includes the following:
-DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE the 1912 Thanhouser version(12 mins)
-DR. JEKYLL AND MR, HYDE - a 15 minute of the other 1920 version of the film - this one starring Sheldon Lewis and produced by Louis B. Mayer himself.
-"Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride" - a 1925 slapstick parody of the story starring the great Stan Laurel (this is a fun little extra for sure).
-"The Transformation Scene" - A rare 1909 audio recording.

The Blu-ray is available via Kino Lorber and other online retailers:
http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=1520

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