Horror Film Countdown: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - 1912
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912), dir. Lucius Henderson, Thanhouser Compnay.

While not the first film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed story, this is the oldest surviving copy. Like other films from the time period, its short running time doesn’t leave much to be discussed. We open with Dr. Jekyll (James Cruze) experimenting in his lab.

The experiment works in a stunning but of special effects, turning the white haired Jekyll into the younger yet monstrous Mr. Hyde (also Cruze, but played in a few scenes by Henry Benham). Jekyll reverts back to his normal self and continues to woo the local minister’s daughter. From there Jekyll finds himself turning into his hideous alter ego at random, cumulating in the murder of his future father-in-law.
Not an awful version, but the Hyde make-up comes across as more goofy than gruesome. Also, and while I can talk about the earlier version, this film does continue the adaptation of giving Dr. Jekyll a love interest, who ends up playing little part in the overall story. Worth a viewing from a historical perspective, but that’s about all.