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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Fredric March

One of the iconic pre-code films, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” made Fredric March an international star. He won an Oscar for his memorable performance and also an award at the Venice Film Festival. The famous story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been several times made for the big screen – there was an even earlier, German version, “Der Januskopf” (1920), with Conrad Veidt, but it’s sadly lost. Returning to Fredric March, I found his dual role here simply outstanding and very difficult to play. His transition from the handsome doctor to the monstruous Mr. Hyde within less than a minute was unbelievable. The heavy make-up he wore in this film reminded me of Conrad’s make-up in “The Man Who Laughs” (1928). Rouben Mamoulian, the director, did a magnificent job in the climax scenes. I liked particularly the ones that involved Miriam Hopkins as the beautiful girl who falls in love with Dr. Jekyll, only to become Mr. Hyde’s obsession and inocent victim. It was fascinating to see the scene where she comes to the doctor for help, as she was terrorized by Hyde, and he assures her that she will no longer be disturbed. To see March taking that doll-like face into his hands, almost kissing her, and only a few hours later becoming her criminal, it was somehow disturbing to me, but this is what really makes this film a masterpiece. The unique combination of contrastable faces, moods, feelings and attitudes of two different people in just a single body, and a damsel in distress – or, in fact, two damsels in distress, because even Dr. Jekyll’s girlfriend almost becomes Mr. Hyde’s victim. All in all, I highly recommend you to watch this gem of the pre-code productions. It will certainly be a memorable, thrilling experience. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Adaptation (based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), and Best Cinematography, and it is one of the greatest classical horror films of all time, along with “The Phantom at the Opera”, “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”.

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