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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913) Movie Poster
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USA  •    •  26m  •    •  Directed by: Herbert Brenon.  •  Starring: King Baggot, Jane Gail, Matt Snyder, Howard Crampton, William Sorelle, Herbert Brenon, Violet Horner..
     Dr. Henry Jekyll experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.


Image from: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913)
Image from: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913)
Image from: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913)
This is a respectable adaptation for 1913 of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella. Comparing it to later adaptations, most notably the 1920 John Barrymore, the 1931 Fredric March and the 1941 Spencer Tracy versions of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" would be unfair, but this 1913 short feature does fare well in comparison to the 1912 Thanhouser version, which I've also seen. The 1912 film was probably only a reel in length, as opposed to the two or three reels of this 1913 incarnation, which, thus, benefits from less truncation of the narrative. The 1912 film featured two different actors to portray Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, whereas this one stars King Baggot in a dual role. Both pictures used editing for the transformations between Jekyll and Hyde, but the 1913 one also includes two transformations via double-exposure photography. This is the same technique used, albeit done better, in the later and more popular versions of the story. Another way the transformations are achieved here is by Baggot removing his Hyde costume while hunched over and his back to the camera. Baggot also does this once to put on his Hyde, but there's a jump cut to aid him for this. The editing tricks used for the remainder of the transformations are crosscutting and having Baggot exit a scene and re-enter it.

Baggot's Hyde isn't too bad, either, for 1913. He changes his hair and teeth for it, and dons a hat, odd glasses and a cane, and he walks hunched over and knees bent, for a grotesque and animalistic Hyde, which is faithful to the novella's characterization.

The film suffers from some of the typical, outdated cinematic practices of the time. It is told in a tableau style, where title cards describe proceeding scenes and there are no intertitles or changes in camera placements for each set. On the other hand, there is some crosscutting and good, quick scene dissection between locations, which is more than can be said for many pictures of this era and which makes for a, thankfully, breezy viewing experience.

The director of this "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", Herbert Brenon, was probably one of the foremost filmmakers of the 1910s, but some of his most acclaimed pictures from the decade are lost, including "Neptune's Daughter" (1914), its follow-up "A Daughter of the Gods", as well as "War Brides" (both 1916), which starred Alla Nazimova. A couple of his 1920s features: "Peter Pan" (1924) and the Lon Chaney picture "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" (1928), however, remain in wide circulation and some others are available from smaller video distributors.

Review by Cineanalyst from the Internet Movie Database.


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