Wednesday, March 19, 2014


DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1912) (NR) Dir. Lucius Henderson
12 mins.

Though there have been a couple film adaptations of Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before the 1912 version, this is the only one to have survived, so far. Directed by Lucius Henderson and starring future director James Cruze as the doomed doctor, the film serves as a cornerstone to not only horror, but to narrative cinema itself.

Dr. Jekyll is in his lab, reading up on the effects of different drugs. He is a able to concoct a new substance that separates the good half of a person from his/her evil half. Upon testing the formula, Jekyll turns into his criminal shadow-self, Mr. Hyde. He checks out his new visage in a mirror, and having succeeded in his experiment, ingests an antidote and returns to his Jekyll form. Jekyll immediately jots down his results.

However, experimenting with the drug over the course of a few months, Jekyll begins to transform into Hyde unwillingly. While studying one day, Hyde emerges. It's interesting to note that you can physically see Jekyll struggling for control over the Hyde personality. Kudos to James Cruze for being able to portray that in a matter of a few seconds. Hyde wins out and, after tearing Jekyll's notes, runs amok in the town streets, where he attacks a little girl. He scurries off, evades capture, and using the antidote reverts back into Jeckyll.
Later, when meeting with his fiancée, Jekyll begins to suffer from one of his spells. He runs off out of sight and transforms. As Hyde, he attacks his wife-to-be, and when her minister father intervenes, Hyde strangles him to death.

A policeman chases a fleeing Hyde to Jekyll's house, but when he reaches it, Hyde has already ingested the antidote. Dr. Jekyll appears and reassures the officer that Hyde is not there. Knowing now that he will never rid himself of Hyde, Jekyll arranges to meet his fiancée and break it off. During their meeting, he must again run off to avoid endangering her. He gets back to his house in time and morphs.
Inside Jekyll's home, Hyde finds that he has run out of antidote and must remain in this form indefinitely. Hyde trashes the lab and Jekyll's butler fetches the police. In desperation, as police ax down the laboratory door, Hyde drinks a flask of poison and dies.
Even at twelve minutes there is a lot going on in the adaptation. The pacing is very fast, especially for its time. Blink and you will miss scenes. The Hyde makeup is excellent, I can imagine very creepy for 1912 audiences, and the big dissolve used to show the initial Jekyll's initial transformation is groundbreaking. At this point, horror cinema is still in its infancy, but its teeth are starting to come in. 7/10   

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