Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1931. Warner Bros., The Vitaphone Corporation. Screenplay by J. Grubb Alexander, based on the novel Trilby by George L. Du Maurier. Cinematography by Barney McGill. Music by David Mendoza. Production Design by Anton Grot. Costume Design by Earl Luick. Film Editing by William Holmes. Academy Awards 1930/1931.
This curious little piece of cinematic history is a terrific blend of comedy, musical and very scary horror. Svengali (John Barrymore) is an Eastern European composer and music teacher who hypnotizes women into falling in love with him in order that he may take advantage of their wealth. When he meets a beautiful model (Marian Marsh) with a promising singing voice, he steals her away from her beloved and hypnotizes her into becoming his love slave and a fabulous opera singer. Anton Grot’s production design is delightfully skewered, and Barrymore under heavy makeup and wigs is frightfully funny and just plain frightful at the same time. A particular scene where he puts his hypnosis over on Marsh from far away will never leave you.