What’s important to remember isn’t how much of an unhinged psychopath Hyde is, but how much of that rampant entitlement comes directly from Jekyll’s character. Hyde isn’t so much a dark mirror as a slight skew—Jekyll is the genius of science, Hyde is the mastermind of depravity. In today’s world, where there’s the person you are online and off, it’s hardly a wonder that the story continues to resonate.
Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.
An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations.
The brew that he’s been discussing that frees the beast that lurks in the hearts of men does so admirably. The transformation from Jekyll into Hyde contains some of the most impressive “How’d they do that?” special effects of their time, with some work that still looks seamless and impressive today. Crooked, hairy prosthetics turn handsome Fredric March into a half man, half ape with sharp protruding fangs and a brow sourced from times long passed.
The opening credits use Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Johann Sebastian Bach.
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen Barrymore’s, so I can’t wholly comment. I will say the sequence of the giant spider sure stuck with me, though I can understand why Mammoulian ditched that sort of imagery and went with the more ape-like stuff instead.
Grossing $1.25 million, the film was a box office hit on par with the Universal monster films of the era, even considering that its $535,000 budget was high for a horror film at the time.
Danny, I enjoy all your reviews so much, but I have to say this – it is “Fredric” March – no extra “e”. Thanks for reviewing a really wonderful film!
Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when they stumble upon the Femm family estate.
Have you ever seen the Barrymore 1920 version? If so, what did you think of it compared to this?
This piece originally appeared in Bride of Monster Serial, a collection of essays about beloved horror movies. Here’s the description:
I have! And while I think Barrymore gives a great performance and I do, indeed, find the human-sized tarantula pretty creepy, I’d put it below this one in every category.
Ever since the last time I rented the March version, I’ve been hoping this would be released on blu ray. WB, is releasing Dorian Gray on BD so hopefully DJ&MH will follow. The March version is the cream of the crop and a joy to watch. I think I read that March did his own stunts which if so were entrancing just as his acting is.
A brilliant surgeon obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe saves the life of a beautiful dancer and goes mad when he can't have her.
A determined scientist (Fredric March) whose self-experimentation into the nature of evil leads to horrifyingly tragic results.
Wally Westmore's make-up for Hyde — simian and hairy with large canine teeth — influenced greatly the popular image of Hyde in media and comic books. In part this reflected the novella's implication of Hyde as embodying repressed evil, and hence being semi-evolved or simian in appearance. The characters of Muriel Carew and Ivy Pierson do not appear in Stevenson's original story but do appear in the 1887 stage version by playwright Thomas Russell Sullivan.
That also figures into your fatal character flaw: you, sir, are really, really horny.
Yep, definitely showing up on TCM on Friday, and it’s one of my absolute favorites. It’s so stylish and so racy and so much damn fun that I find it irresistible.
A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.
The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
You are Dr. Henry Jekyll. Cocksure, a hero in your field, and a man whose lectures are attended by hordes of eager students. With the rapture of a revival preacher, you’re completely convinced of your ideals: “It’s unscientific not to admit the possibility of anything!”
The film was the first film to be screened at the first edition of the Venice International Film Festival.
Jekyll feels mild guilt when he returns to normal by way of his potion, but he still feels justified in this escapism until Muriel returns. He’s such a great man, didn’t he deserve to indulge in a bit of naughtiness in the mask of a savage for a fortnight? Unfortunately for him it turns out that the darkness doesn’t go away so easily; Jekyll’s transformations into Hyde start to become involuntary.
Wallace McBride did a great job assembling the book, and you should definitely check it out!
If not for the intervention of his friend and confidant, Dr. Lanyon, Jekyll’s Victorian impulses may have been lost in the chaos. Learning that Muriel still won’t be his for months and is going on a long sea voyage to boot, Jekyll finally snaps. If he can’t make it with a woman, he’ll just have to make it with science.
The secret of the transformation scenes was not revealed for decades (Mamoulian himself revealed it in a volume of interviews with Hollywood directors published under the title The Celluloid Muse). Make-up was applied in contrasting colors. A series of colored filters that matched the make-up was then used which enabled the make-up to be gradually exposed or made invisible. The change in color was not visible on the black-and-white film.
Thanks for coming by Rick. I actually like how Hyde’s looks evolve over the film, starting out very primitive and ape-like before slowly looking more like a man– a man who is melting, but a man nonetheless.
Dr. Henry Jekyll experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.
Nice review, Danny! I love your description of Jekyll as a “a rock star scientist.” This is still probably the best adaptation of Stevenson’s work. March is terrific, though I wish that Hyde looked more human.
Holy moly, what a fantastic write-up! After reading this, I have come to one conclusion: it’s been far too long since I’ve seen this movie! It’s airing tomorrow, right? On TCM? There we go – my Friday night is sorted!
John Mosher of The New Yorker reported that the film "has its full storage of horror" and was "well acted". March, he wrote, "gives us a Mr. Hyde as athletic and exuberant as might have been that of Douglas Fairbanks, Senior." Film Daily declared: "Gripping performance by Fredric March is highlight of strong drama, ace supporting cast and direction".
I heard a rumor that the 31 Jekyll and Hyde may make it to blu-ray via Criterion. It may not happen, but a man can dream!
This is Mr. Hyde. You may have heard of him. Besides the simian appearance, his attitudes follow the same path. In a bar full of ruffians, his scares them all into submission; he immediately makes it known that he is the alpha bully, and their job is to fall in line or get hurt. His body language is that of pure primordial aggression, slinking his arms and hissing at those who get in his way.
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1932)
Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times wrote an enthusiastic review, comparing it favorably to the John Barrymore version as a "far more tense and shuddering affair" than that film. Hall called March "the stellar performer" in the title role while praising the acting of the entire supporting cast as well, and called the old-fashioned atmosphere created by the costumes and set designs "quite pleasing".
I definitely prefer March’s Jekyll to Barrymore’s. Barrymore’s Jekyll was a saint; March’s is flawed and more human.
A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer.
On advice from her landlady Mrs. Hawkins (Tempe Pigott), Ivy goes to see Dr. Jekyll, hoping that he can free her of the abusive Hyde. When she arrives, Ivy sees that the celebrated Dr. Jekyll was the same man who saved her from abuse just months before. She breaks down in tears over her situation with Hyde. Jekyll is extremely distraught over the pain that he (Hyde) has caused her and promises Ivy that she will never have to worry about Hyde again.
The film was made prior to the full enforcement of the Production Code and is remembered today for its strong sexual content, embodied mostly in the character of the bar singer, Ivy Pierson, played by Miriam Hopkins. When it was re-released in 1936, the Code required 8 minutes to be removed before the film could be distributed to theaters. This footage was restored for the VHS and DVD releases.
I was expecting the whole “proof that it’s pre-Code” section to just say “Miriam Hopkins”. 😀 I am not disappointed.
While on his way to a party at the Carews' home to celebrate their return and the announcement of a new wedding date to Muriel, Jekyll, without the use of his drugs, suddenly changes into Hyde. Ivy, who thought she was free of Hyde forever, is terrified when Hyde appears before her. Hyde angrily confronts her about seeing Jekyll and, just before murdering her, reveals that he and Jekyll are one and the same.