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"Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" 1931 - part of Oscar's Horrors Wknd

Event title "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" 1931 - part of Oscar's Horrors Wknd
Beginning Date Saturday February 24th, 2018 PM 6:00
Ending Date Saturday February 24th, 2018 PM 7:40
Location Loew's Jersey Theatre, 54 Journal Sq, Jersey City, NJ 07306
Contact Colin Egan
Description Starring Frederic March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. 1931 mins, 96mins, B&W. Screened in 35mm.

$8 Adults / $6 Seniors & Kids; Combo pricing for seeing more than one film in a series.

It’s probably fair to say that “Frankenstein” and Boris Karloff are what first come to mind on the subject of 1930s movie horror. But 1931’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” starring the extraordinarily versatile Frederic March deserves more than passing mention, because it is one of the most sophisticated and frightening films of the era – exploring lust, repression and human nature in ways that most movies of its time merely hinted at, or avoided all together.

In his professional life, Jekyll is a scientist who’s fascinated with the notion that within each man are impulses for both good and evil, and he is working to develop a drug that will separate the two natures. In his personal life, he is a man who is frustrated, in an overtly sexual way, over the extended term of his engagement to his fiancé. It’s while in this state that Jekyll decides to test his drug on himself – and unintentionally lets loose the beast within.

March deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor – the first time the award was given for the lead in a horror movie, something that would not happen again for 60 years, until Anthony Hopkins' win for “Silence of the Lambs”. His portrayal of “the good” Dr. Jekyll has surprising complexity. He and Director Rouben Mamoulian resist the temptation to portray Jekyll as a hedonistic libertine, instead giving us a decent man wanting to explore natural and healthy desires, but also with character flaws that mark him as typically human. So March’s Jekyll shows an undertow of humor, sexual desire, vanity and even selfishness along with the intelligence, seriousness, reason, and restraint that he presents to the world. This subtle characterization of Jekyll makes March’s full-bodied incarnation of the “evil” Hyde all the more effective.

March’s on-screen transformation from Jekyll into Hyde was a combination of cinematographer Karl Struss’ clever use of shadows and angles with Wally Westmore's superb make-up; as incredible as it may seem in our era of CGI, this special effect is still impressive almost nine decades later. Mamoulian’s direction is outstanding, particularly in his use of subjective camera work; using extended point-of-view shots, we are forced to experience the world through the eyes of Dr. Jekyll. Myriam Hopkins, one of the best and most alluring actresses of the late silent and early talkie era, gives a magnificent performance as the “loose” woman first befriended, then tormented by Hyde.

This version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous 1886 novella was made before the infamous Hollywood Production Code was being enforced, which explains why the film was able to so frankly include sexual desire and repression. But by 1938, when the film was re-released, the Code was very much in effect, and so several critical scenes were cut out. Then in 1941 MGM decided to make a new version of Jekyll and Hyde starring one of the studio’s biggest stars at the time, Spencer Tracy, and bought the rights along with all known prints of the earlier version. The MGM version was not well received by critics (so much so that March is said to have jokingly thanked Tracy - with whom he was good friends - for making him look so good in comparison); perhaps because of this reception, MGM kept the earlier version buried in its vault and out of circulation for decades.

Don’t miss this chance to see what is widely held as the definitive “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” on the Loew’s BIG Screen in 35mm!

Also being shown in this series: "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" Feb 23 at 8PM and "The Silence of the Lambs" Feb 24 at 8PM.
Categories Art & Entertainment
Last Modified Monday February 12th, 2018
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