"There are lots of methods. Mine involves a lot of talent, a
glass and some cracked ice." -John Barrymore
John Barrymore was one of the great actors in the early
years of the last century. Coming from
an acting family (both his father and mother were successful on the
along with his siblings, Lionel Barrymore, and Ethel Barrymore, made up
first family of both Broadway and the silver screen.
(The tradition caries on to this day... Drew
Barrymore is John's granddaughter.)
Kino has released a set of four silent films featuring the
great actor boxed as The John Barrymore Collection.
While only one of the movies (Sherlock Holmes)
is new to DVD, all four
films are very good and worth owning. In
them, Barrymore shows how wide of a range he had. While
many fine actors play characters that
are very similar from picture to picture, these four pieces show
four totally different roles, and all of them he pulls off admirably. From horrible monster to
action hero to a sleuth with a razor sharp
intellect and even a great lover, John Barrymore could play them all. Check out this set and see for yourself.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
One of his most famous silent film roles, John Barrymore
does an outstanding job in this early adaptation of the Robert Louis
Set in Victorian England, Henry Jekyll (John Barrymore) is a
gentleman, philanthropist, and medical doctor.
While his peers are content to treat what illnesses they can,
wants to expand the scope of human knowledge and unlock the mysteries
universe. When he's not doing research
he spends his time at the free clinic he runs in the undesirable part
treating the poor as best he can.
Jekyll is engaged to the stunning Millicent Carewe (Martha
Mansfield), but when her father, Sir George Carewe, (Brandon Hurst)
out to a dance hall the sensual movements of one of the dancers, Gina
Naldi), awaken the doctor's more base instincts. Contemplating
the possibility of a man who
lives solely by his instincts and desires, Jekyll locks himself in his
lab. Eventually he prefects a formula
that will release the primal man hidden inside and when he drinks it,
transforms into an evil creature he christens Edward Hyde.
Hyde takes up with Gina and lives by his
emotions, even killing when the mood strikes him.
Barrymore did a magnificent job in the dual role as Jekyll
and Hyde. The transformation scene was
very effective, especially for the time, and the makeup Barrymore
Hyde became the definitive look for the evil creature, influencing
generations the way Universal's Frankenstein cemented that monster's
the public mind. With elongated
fingers, distorted features and a pointed head, Barrymore is nearly
in his guise. Hyde is the
personification of evil and Barrymore brings the creature to life
The movie also does a good job of creating a dark and
foreboding atmosphere. The city streets
are dirty and filled with fog and smoke.
The dark alleyways and shadowed doors are very effective at
suspense in the film. The sets are
almost another character, they add so much to the picture.
The score was preformed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture
Orchestra, and they do a wonderful job, as always.
I really can't think of anything new to say
about this group, save that they are the best combo currently scoring
films. If you see their name on a DVD,
you can be assured that you're in for a good soundtrack.
The full frame tinted image was okay, but not
outstanding. Granted, this is a nearly
90 year old movie and the print is showing its age.
There are scratches, dirt, and spot
throughout the movie, and while it is more noticeable than the average
silent film, it isn't so great as to ruin the film.
The contrast is generally good and the detail
is very acceptable.
Kino has put some fun and interesting bonus material on this
disc. First off is an excerpt from
another 1920 film production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This one stars
Lewis and is an obviously inferior production.
It was too bad the entire film wasn't included as it is only 40
long. Easily the best extra is the 1925
short Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride a
two reel Stan Laurel short made before he famously teamed up with
Hardy. There's also the audio of the
Jekyll/Hyde transformation from a 1909 play, and a nicely illustrated
piece on the history of the story on the big screen.
This is a rare film, thought lost for years, this is the
first time it has been available on home video.
The story begins when Sherlock Holmes (John Barrymore,
Watson (Roland Young) are in college. The
two team up to clear up a case of theft and the pair end up meeting the
would become Holmes arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Gustav von
Seyffertitz). This confrontation so
intrigues the young Holmes that it convinces the young man to study
Year later Holmes is set up at 221B Baker Street, when a
young prince is accused of a crime that has international ramifications. Holmes and the ever-present Watson
investigate and discover that Moriarty has crafted a plan that may
world into chaos.
First the good things:
Barrymore certainly looks the part, and fills the shoes of the
detective well. He's suave, tall, and
thin, and moves with the assurance that Holmes would have.
Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn't hold together as
well as one might hope. It's based on a
stage play, but there are still a lot of problems with pacing. While the end and to a lesser extent the
beginning are engaging, the rest of the film is rather dry and a bit
tedious. Things movie awfully
slowly, and it takes
the first half of the movie for the main mystery to be revealed.
For a silent film, it is very verbose too. The
title cards pop up too frequently and are
too long. Most silent directors
recognized that intertitles ground the action to a halt and so they
them humorous or used them sparingly.
Neither happens with this film, and it suffers because of it.
There are some interesting aspects to this heavily flawed
movie however. Seeing the streets of
London in the early 20's in fun and this film also boasts the first
appearances of both Roland Young (Topper) and William Powell (The Thin
Man.) While fans of Barrymore and Holmes
will find this worth watching just for the historic aspects, less
silent movie fans should go on to the other films in this set.
The film is accompanied by Ben Model on a Miditzer Virtual
Theatre Organ. I'm not a huge fan of
synthesized scores, but I have to admit that this one sounded fine. The score, composed by Mr. Model was very
good but wasn't enough to overcome the film's failings.
This newly restored film looks quite nice overall.
Since this comes from a single source, the
movie does have some problems. There are
a couple of scenes that are a little bright and there are spots and
but generally the image is sharp with a
fair amount of detail and nice contrast.
Unfortunately there are no extras included on this disc.
The Beloved Rogue
My favorite film in this set, The Beloved Rogue casts
Barrymore in a swashbuckling comedy like those of Douglas Fairbanks and
thespian rises wonderfully to the challenge.
In this adventure Barrymore plays the famous French poet
François Villon (1431-1463) a man who is ""poet, pickpocket,
earnestly, Frenchwomen excessively, French wine exclusively." An impish rapscallion, Villon makes fun
Duke Charles of Burgundy and his jest
the ears of King Louis XI (wonderfully played by Conrad Veidt) who has
exiled from Paris. Even though he's lost the favor of the king,
Villon does his best for France,
robbing the evil rich and giving to the poor, and even disrupting a Burgundy plot. For
the latter he's sentenced to death, but Villon doesn't have time to
still has to woo Charlotte,
the king's ward.
It's hard not to see parallels between Fairbanks movies Robin Hood and The
Zorro in this feature. Barrymore leaps
across rooftops and always manages to elude the guards that are after
great style and élan (especially when he's being flung out of a
catapult.) The one area where he clearly
is in the
romance department. Barrymore is truly
elegant and charming during the love scenes and seems right at home
them. His natural charisma comes shining
through at those times and his good looks don't hurt at all.
The film also boasts Conrad Veidt's American debut and he
does a magnificent job as King Louis XI.
He adds just the right dose of comedy to the role of the king
described as being ""superstitious, crafty, cruel, and a slave to the
This film includes an old piano score from 1971 by William
P. Perry. While it is competent, I would
have like to have heard what Mont Alto or Stephen Horne could have done
the film. There is a low level hiss in
the background that wasn't distracting.
This tinted version of the film looks pretty good.
Though it has not been restored, there is
minimal print damage and the contrast is nice.
The image is a little on the soft side, but that is not
unexpected. Overall this is a solid
There is also the Orson Welles intro and outro that he
recorded when he presented this film as part of the 13-part TV series The Silent Years back in 1971.
This is the film Barrymore made right after The Beloved
Rogue, and not to be
confused with the play by Shakespeare.
This movie is an interesting comment on the Russian revolution,
something that was recent history when it was made.
Sgt. Ivan Markov (Barrymore) is a heroic NCO in the Russian
Army under the Czar. A general has taken
notice of him, and through his hard work and brave service Ivan is
officer's commission, something unheard of in the strict class system. The other officers don't accept Ivan because
of his peasant origins and when he falls in love with a general's
things go from bad to worse.
Ivan sneaks into the young girl's bedroom one evening and
leaves her a piece of jewelry, but accidently falls asleep on her
bed. When she discovers him she calls
for her father. Stripped of his rank and
imprisoned, Ivan nearly goes mad in jail until the revolution comes. But how will the new rulers treat his
beloved, a member of the ruling class?
This was a very different film, and I can only imagine its
impact in 1928. While the Russian
aristocracy was portrayed as stuffy and oppressive, the people who took
after the revolt were even worse. Blood
thirsty and vile, the Bolsheviks were shown as being worse than the
rule of the
Tzar. The aristocrats were beautiful
and cultured while the masses were ugly and crude.
This film presents a very unusual take on the
This also has an older piano score by William P. Perry that
fits the movie well, but didn't move me very much.
It comes across as a little melodramatic in
parts. Like The Beloved Rogue
there's a very slight hiss in the background.
The full frame image is fine though not outstanding.
The picture is on the soft side and there are
frequent spots and scratches on the film.
The contrast is good and the level of detail is acceptable
easy to watch.
Unfortunately there are no extras.
This was a great set that shows the wide range of roles that
Barrymore could play, all of them convincingly.
While only one of the films are new to DVD and the other have
restored, it's still a very good set showcasing a great artist. Highly