Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has evolved into one of the most acclaimed pieces of literature in modern American society. One aspect of a continual spark of interest with the novel is motion pictures. Various directors through the years have interpreted the book through their own eyes and the following is a depiction of that. One might question Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s overwhelming success. Theme restaurants, Broadway shows and movies all have indicated a public interest in the classic. Americans especially have been fascinated with Stevenson’s portrayal of the split personality Dr. Jekyll whom many can relate too.
The first movie that I decided to use for this examination is the 1932 restored version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, directed by Rouben Mammoulian. I thought that Mammoulian’s attempt to depict the novel was excellent. When reading the book, I saw many of the faucets of the novel that I would have expected to come up in a motion picture.
The separation between good and evil was done brilliantly through Mammoulian’s use of lighting. The most evident example of this is through the eyes of Dr. Jekyll. When Jekyll is running through his daily routine, the sets are bright with adequate lighting. On the other hand, when Mr. Hyde comes into the picture the scenes drastically become dark and frightening. I think this split is in conjunction with the two personalities that Dr. Jekyll displays. A scene in the movie that makes the disparity so clear is when Dr. Jekyll first discovers the potion that creates Mr. Hyde. The lighting in the laboratory was not the best, but after the transformation takes place it seems like a torrential downpour just took place and the set is almost black. Another scene that pops into my head is when Dr. Jekyll is relaxing in the park one afternoon and the change takes place. It reminded me almost of the opposite of the Wizard of Oz, when the movie went from black and white to color. Good and evil are clearly depicted through the image of lighting in this movie.
Another element of the direction that was credible was that of both the costume and the scenery. In the movie there were excellent depictions of the time period through dress. This made the movie more believable and the flow smoother. I feel that when a director exerts the effort into the little things such as costumes, the picture is almost always better than expected. One of the faucets that made the transformation from separating my mentality that I was watching the movie and not reading the book was the interaction of characters. From the Muriel’s father’s dinner party to Poole, the smooth transition that Mammoulian incorporated in his direction was second to none. It was also impressive to note that this movie is over 60 years old and that as I watched it, I felt like this was the most accurate portrayal of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel that I have ever watched.
There are several elements or subplots that were evident in the 1932 version of the novel that were nowhere to be found in the original masterpiece. One of the most evident is Dr. Jekyll’s love interest, Muriel. Rouben Mammoulian added an entire twist to the movie that served as a way of relating how the transformation of Jekyll and its effect on others. Muriel essentially is Dr. Jekyll’s fiancée whom he is madly in love with. As the movie progresses we see how this new invention that the doctor has discovered transpires him into an evil man and how the relationship quickly takes a turn for the worst.
You can clearly see that Mammoulian wanted his viewers to notice that the transformation was costly in the relationships with the people that Dr. Jekyll loved and cared about the most. Another important plot that the book includes but is nowhere to be found in the movie is the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. The importance that this character displays in the book...
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