Coming out on January 28th
Review-Before we talk about this film: a little known fact about me, I am a film historian. While people know me for watching the sick and demented or indie stuff, one of my passions is the golden age of film. Companies like Kino and Criterion to me are just godsends. Both studios among some others, put so much care and love into these films that when you open it up to put it in the player, you just know once you sit back and hit that play button, you are going to escape into this medium of cinema. In the last year, I felt the release on Criterion of Safety Last! was epic, it is not nearly as epic as finally seeing (to me) the best adaptation of Robert Louis Stevensonâ€™s story “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. John S Robertson with the absolutely stunning performance of John Barrymore, really delivers a film that some 94 years later still delivers. Barrymore in this role of Dr. Henry Jekyll engages the audience, at times you think he is comfortable playing a dual role. We all know this story, you have Henry who is a physician and scientist who is a good well-mannered human being who is trying to discover new cures and stop diseases. Then, you have his nemesis Sir George Carew played by Brandon Hurst (who also starred in White Zombie and another underrated film The Amateur Gentleman) is out to try and tarnish the good doctor. They go to a dance hall where Jekyll learns for the first time temptation. This starts to fascinate the good doctor so he fears for himself what could happen, so he concocts a potion that will allow him to indulge under an alternative personality. As the story plays out Hyde takes this lifestyle to the extremes and his lusts get more sinister and dark, the Hyde starts to take over and gets more and more control. For a true film lover even with todayâ€™s standards, Barrymoreâ€™s Hyde is perfect. His grotesque look and appearance is just amazing. Barrymoreâ€™s performance is so over-the-top at times that it really becomes the perfect balance. As the film plays on, Hydeâ€™s body becomes more and more rotted suggesting that this filmâ€™s message is that nothing in life comes without a price. The transformation scene that happens almost towards the end is just for that era so jaw-dropping. At times, it does not even seem like the same actor played both roles. The negatives, and I will be honest is that the Oscars did not start to vote till 1927. (Which the first film to win was Wings) I just think this is the most criminally overlooked film and performance in movie history, esp. when talking about todayâ€™s dual performances. When you see Barrymore sink into the Hyde role, you can tell he was having fun and trying to really get the audience to leave that theater terrified. I know people feel that the American horror film did not exist until 1931 with Dracula, but I feel that movies from the silent era before the talkies were not as effective; I would say that those people need to see this film. How Barrymore takes an evil entity and makes us have sympathy for him towards the end is just remarkable and inspired millions upon millions of screenwriters and directors even today. Now all this being said, the film has some issues. One being and this is a big one, John Robertson shooting style. Some of the scenes in the film really lacked the punch or felt hindered because the cameras work. The film has its flaws, but Barrymoreâ€™s performance alone makes this well worth the buy. So, the million dollar question is how is the transfer? This is said to be the so called â€œcompleteâ€ edition. I had the dvd, and I felt the picture quality was poor, so the blu ray does improve on that. There are really nothing new in terms of extras, but the transfer would be the selling point. This is in my top favorite silent films, just for the performance alone. This film coming out on blu ray really shows you what the latest crop of films delivers to an audience. When film fans are more stoked about remastered blu rays more than anything coming to a multiplex, tells you all you need to know about where cinema is heading. So, if you own the Paramount blu ray of Wings, the Criterion blu ray of Safety Last!, this would be the next one to get on the list. Though Kino, it would be really cool if you guys got the rights to release on blu ray Lloyd Baconâ€™s adaptation of Moby Dick, which also showcased the great John Barrymore who plays Ahab. I do have to finally purchase their other gem, the three disc blu ray to Birth of a Nation.
8.5 out of 10