Jolly Cinema > 11:00


Rouben Mamoulian
Introduced by

Ehsan Khoshbakht


Sunday 25/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

This is one of Mamoulian’s finest works. It is also the best cinematic adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, which was filmed many times but no other adaptation has matched the disturbing verisimilitude of Mamoulian’s vision. In the eight months since City Streets, Mamoulian’s style had matured, moving steadily towards great fluidity. As usual, he had an ace cameraman on his side, this time Karl Struss.
The film opens with first-person camera, and it invariably returns to it. If the story is about the metamorphosis of a gentle, respected doctor to an evil Neanderthal, where more appropriate to place the viewer in than inside Dr Jekyll himself? Because of the subjective camerawork, mirrors, often present in Mamoulian films, become the only place in these scenes that we can see the protagonist, or a reflection of him.
The actor who agreed to be thus seen only in parts, and when fully visible, buried under heavy makeup of Mr Hyde, was Fredric March, who won an Oscar for his performance. Transformed into Hyde, he acquires a devilishly smooth ease of movement, allowing him to prowl the city and the shabby pubs  of Victorian London where he pursues  a streetwalker, convincingly played by Miriam Hopkins.
Shown as the opening film of the very first edition of Venice Film Festival, this haunted vision of a man frustrated by society’s denial of his sexual and intellectual desires was subject to censorship after its first run and, when MGM brought the rights for Victor Fleming’s 1941 remake, it completely fell out of circulation for at least 60 years, during which it became the stuff of legends.
Here, Mamoulian can push his experiments, such as split-screen, to new levels. Jekyll’s preoccupation with the memory of the naked leg of a woman dangling pendulum-like on the edge of the bed is a dissolve that stretches for so long that we forget there’s going to be a dissolve. The synthetic sound over these images is equally daring; the sound of a gong mixes with the sound of Mamoulian’s own heartbeat. As in later films such as We Live Again and Blood and Sand, the animal within comes to the surface and when that change becomes irreversible, the payback is deadly.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the novel trange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson. Scen.: Samuel Hoffenstein, Percy Heath. F.: Karl Struss. M.: William Shea. Scgf.: Hans Dreier. Int.: Fredric March (dottor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde), Miriam Hopkins (Ivy Pierson), Rose Hobart (Muriel Carew), Holmes Herbert (dottor Lanyon), Halliwell Hobbes (brigadiere generale Carew), Edgar Norton (Poole), Tempe Pigott (signora Hawkins), Arnold Lucy (Utterson). Prod.: Paramount. DCP. D.: 98’. Bn.