Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1931. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein, Percy Heath, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Cinematography by Karl Struss. Produced by Adolph Zukor. Production Design by Hans Dreier. Costume Design by Travis Banton. Film Editing by William Shea. Academy Awards 1931/32.
Moody, gothic interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ever-popular novel is a horror film treat. Fredric March is excellent as the passionate scientist who discovers a formula that unlocks the inner beast within him and turns him into a raging murderer. It also turns his face into what looks like one of Jerry Lewis’s transitional phases in The Nutty Professor, but the makeup effects are still quite excellent for their time. Moving along at a swift pace for a film made in the early thirties, before music scoring and better editing techniques had become the norm, this film’s only drawback is that in deference to censorship the entire point of the novel is completely missed. Stevenson was writing about the hypocrisy of Victorian England, how underneath every seemingly proper gentlemen lay dormant the heart of a human being rife with sexual desire and bare predatory instincts. Turning him into a werewolf monster is effective but only skims the surface of what is possible with the story. Still, March has great fun in the double role and Miriam Hopkins is memorable as his favourite victim.