Robert Lewis Stevenson was one of those rare good writers lucky enough to be famous in his own time. I may not like Treasure Island but a lot of people do and even more did at the time of its original publication. They got Stevenson over his inevitable Sophomore Slump (a Romance named Prince Otto that not even English teachers read anymore) and on to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Among English language horror classics it has the benefit of being short and Stevenson’s Presbyterian countryman immediately seized on it for a parable for sin, full stop. Using it in sermons as A Cautionary Tale without the slightest of Spoiler Warnings helped to make the book a best seller. Stage adaptions sprang up immediately, becoming their own worldwide sensation. At least five film versions preceded this one, two of which are lost to us by the time of this writing.
So why ignore the three we have in favor of 1920’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Well, because this is the one I own. And it’s the one with John Barrymore in the title role(s). His name recognition alone should make up for everything…including the film’s problems. Great casting has carried it down through the decades but it shares more with Thomas Russell Sullivan’s stage adaption than with its Stevenson’s novel. Making this a prime example of how Adaption Decay bowdlerized good stories long before the dawn of cinema, and will probably continue to do so until the sun goes nova. So down your mysterious potion of choice, people. This will probably get depressing. Continue reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)