Directed by: Rouben Mamoulian
Starring: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert, Halliwell Hobbes, Edgar Norton
Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is that rarest of things—a full-blown horror movie that also managed to get respect even when it was new. Fredric March won an Oscar for best actor for his performance. Karl Struss was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography, as were Percy Heath and Samuel Hoffenstein for writing. And it picked up a couple more awards at the Venice Film Festival in 1932. Of course, this has something to do with its literary origins, but it mostly has to do with Rouben Mamoulian, who—creatively speaking—was on fire from 1929 through 1933. This was and is one of the most strikingly creative films of its era. Mamoulian piles innovative approach on top of innovative approach with dizzying speed to create a movie unlike any other. Strangely, for years this was—for all intents and purposes—a lost film. MGM bought the film and all the rights to it for their 1941 remake, and proceeded to suppress the original so it couldn’t be compared to theirs. When it finally became available in the 1960s, all that could be found was a 1938 re-issue print, which had lost about 20 minutes. The film’s unvarnished pre-code sexuality fell prey to the later censorship requirements, and a general shortening. The upshot was a film that didn’t live up to its reputation. It was fascinating, but it felt insubstantial and erratically paced, which it, of course, was. When a complete print was found in the 1980s, it was a revelation. No movie ever so benefitted from being slowed down. Suddenly, the creativity, the horror and, of course, the sexuality of Mamoulian’s vision came across with all its cinematic fireworks intact.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Thursday, August 11 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.