Literature: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
"If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable..."
— Henry Jekyll
Source of the Jekyll & Hyde trope, this 1886 book by Robert Louis Stevenson has been much filmed, but practically all the films turn the plot inside out. Note that the original title was Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, omitting the "The" for some reason.The book begins with a mystery. When a girl is brutally attacked late one night, her attacker, calling himself Mr Edward Hyde, buys off the witnesses with a cheque for a small fortune, signed by the eminently respectable Doctor Henry Jekyll.Jekyll's friend and legal advisor, Gabriel John Utterson, is disturbed when he learns this, since Jekyll has recently made Hyde his heir. While Utterson investigates this, Hyde is witnessed committing a savage murder of a prominent Member of Parliament. Jekyll claims there is nothing to worry about, but Utterson becomes convinced his friend is being blackmailed.Before Utterson can do anything, Jekyll's butler Poole contacts Utterson to report that a stranger has locked himself in the lab. When they break into the room they find Hyde, having committed suicide by poison, and two letters explaining everything.Jekyll had been trying to invent a potion which could separate his good and evil sides. When Jekyll tested it, he was now transformed into 'Mr Hyde', a manifestation of his evil side with no trace of morality, but his normal personality remained unchanged. In other words, as Dr. Jekyll he was a man with mostly good and some evil urges, as Mr Hyde he was a man with only evil urges. After some cautious experimenting, Jekyll decided he liked this side-effect. As Mr Hyde, he could indulge himself in every pleasurable vice, and never be suspected as Hyde looked completely different. However, Hyde eventually committed murder, Jekyll resolved never to use the potion again.But after a few months, Jekyll began spontaneously changing into Hyde. Only by drinking the potion could he retain his own form, and the potion was running out — not to mention that ever since the murder, the police had been searching relentlessly for Edward Hyde. When Jekyll made a new batch of the potion, it didn't work; his original chemical samples had been contaminated, and it was the impurities that had made the transformation possible. At the end of his letter, Jekyll writes that he soon will change into Hyde, and thus his life will end.There have been several adaptations and parodies of this book, including:
A highly successful stage play that opened in America not long after the book came out and toured for 20 years. It was this play that introduced the idea of the two love interests—Jekyll's good girl fiancee and Hyde's slutty barmaid/prostitute girlfriend. This plot thread, not part of the original story, occurs in almost all later adaptations.
Straightforward adaptations in 1919 (with John Barrymore), 1931 (with Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins), 1941 (with Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner) and 1960 (a Hammer version with Paul Massie). All these adaptations made substantial changes to the main plot - in particular, Jekyll tends to be cast much younger than he is in the novel, and a female love interest is usually added. Also, the March version is the only one to regularly use the (little-known) correct pronunciation of "Jekyll" (Jee-kyll).
The pronunciation is debatable as although the author was Scottish and therefore would probably pronounce it "Jee-kyll" the character himself comes from London and therefore would pronounce it the usual way.
The Janus Head, a 1920 silent German film version directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Conrad Veidt. It changes the characters' names to Dr. Warren and Mr. O'Connor. Also has a very young Bela Lugosi as the butler. It is also apparently lost forever, but if the production notes are to be believed, it has the first moving camera in cinema history.
Stephen Weeks's version, I, Monster (produced by Hammer's main rival Amicus) keeps to the original plot but changes the names of Jekyll and Hyde in an attempt to keep the twist.
This variation would later be done on the TV sitcom Family Matters when geeky Steve Urkel developed a potion that could turn him into the suave, handome Stephan Urquelle.
The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll puts an interesting twist on the Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy: Jekyll is hirsute, sloppy dressed, mannerless and abrasive, while Hyde is elegant, suave, charming and debonair.
Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, a 1980 comedy/horror with Oliver Reed, followed the Nutty Professor formula: the kindy Heckyl is horribly ugly while his violent alter-ego is good-looking.
The 1971 Hammer HorrorDr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and the 1995 comedy Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde both add a Gender Bender twist to the story.
Mary Reilly tells the story with a romance/horror twist: Hyde was Jekyll's attempt to become young and strong again.
Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse adapted it during the '90s into a stage musical, Jekyll & Hyde.
Jekyll, a 2006 modern day TV miniseries involving a descendant of the pair, written by Steven Moffat. Also notable for an example of using the 'Jee-kyll' pronunciation.
In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, Jekyll and Hyde are made into Expies of Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk, who were in turn based off Jekyll and Hyde. The pair can communicate - Jekyll sees Hyde in mirrors, and omnipresent in his subconscious. Hyde's powers of perception are not usable by Jekyll except if the former advises the latter. The comic depicts Hyde as a huge, monstrously strong humanoid, which Hyde himself explains - separated into distinct individuals, Jekyll grows weak and frail without Hyde's passion, while Hyde grows in power without Jekyll's morals to limit him.
Van Helsing had Hyde as the first monster the titular Van Helsing fights. Like the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" version, Hyde is an ape-like monster, though in this version no justification is given. Also Hyde turns back into Jekyll on his death, unlike the original story.
He turns back into Jekyll because the potion wears off; the fact that he dies moments later is coincidence.
An animated prequel fleshes out the story. Apparently the doctor has the hots for Queen Victoria of England. And he harvests essence from young women to make a temporary youth potion for the queen.
A direct-to-video version starring Tony Todd in 2009. Unlike most adaptations, it tried to remain close to the novel by giving the impression that Jekyll & Hyde were two different people. At least until about two-thirds of the way into the movie.
Stan Lee notably subverted the concept in The Mighty Thor in the 1960s with a villain named Mr. Hyde. Unlike the original story, where Henry Jekyll was a generally upstanding and honest man, Lee's version of Jekyll (named Calvin Zabo) is actually a thieving, spiteful bastard who deliberately seeks to unleash his inner monster and willingly embraces his power, using it to indulge his grudges and sadistic urges.
And finally there's a 70's Blaxploitation flick, Dr Black and Mr Hyde, which cashed in on the Blaxploitation horror craze that was started by Blacula.
While the book is presented as a mystery, with the identity of Hyde as the Twist Ending, this is absent from the films, mainly because the twist is now too famous to surprise anyone.The films also typically show Hyde as looking monstrous, contrary to the book's description. Hyde is described as looking repugnant, but not because of any particular physical abnormality. His appearance is rather normal, if a bit dwarfish; it's just that people can somehow sense his great depravity. Adaptations also tend to portray Hyde as more physically formidable than Jekyll, even huge and super-human in some versions, while in the novel Jekyll is a large man and Hyde, representing Jekyll's "less developed" evil urges, is smaller than average. On the other hand, some recent adaptations have portrayed Hyde as more attractive than Jekyll in keeping with the Evil Is Sexy trope.Further, in pretty much every later adaptation, Jekyll is unaware of Hyde's actions, suffering from split personality amnesia. This is not in any way suggested by the book, in which Jekyll does remember everything he did as Hyde, but begins to find his own depravity horrifying and tries to dissociate himself from it.
This book provides examples of:
All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": The work is well-known by name, but all that most people have heard about it is the twist ending. Many do not even know that the dual identity story was originally a twist at all, and most newer adaptations treat it as a foregone conclusion. Some even make Hyde himself some sort of ugly were-monster rather than just a really evil man, most notably in the infamous NES game released by Bandai.
Applied Phlebotinum: The means by which Hyde is created. This was a time when chemistry and and especially the workings of the human mind were still relatively unknown (even more so then today, that is), and therefore could be used in the same way radiation was used as a reason for giant monsters and superpowers in the 1950's.
Amateur Sleuth: This is basically Utterson's role in the original story.
Artifact Title: A good number of adaptations preserve the "Strange Case" portion of the original title. Although to the modern audience, it's not much of a mystery anymore since adaptations, unlike the original story, typically show the story from Jekyll's point of view.
Based on a Dream: Allegedly, the idea for the story came from a fever dream. Many rumours tie the origins of the story to Stevenson's cocaine addiction.
Bastard Bastard: Hyde is not only smaller but younger-looking than Jekyll, and Utterson briefly wonders if he's the by-blow of Jekyll's youthful indiscretions (though the story phrases it far less bluntly):
"Poor Harry Jekyll," he thought, "my mind misgives me; he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace: punishment coming, pede claudo, years after memory has forgotten and self-love condoned the fault."
Bitter Almonds: "The strong smell of kernels that hung in the air"—that is, almond kernels. Hyde has taken cyanide.
Body Horror: Though not pushed as far as later writers went with it.
The Case Of: One of the earliest works to use this intriguing title template.
Common Knowledge: As noted in the intro, there are many common misconceptions about the novel.
A Darker Me: This is the appeal of Hyde for Jekyll; he even refers to Hyde as "the darker side of my nature".
Jekyll: This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human.
Dead Man Writing: Jekyll wrote a complete briefing about what happened to him (it's the last chapter of the book), but it mustn't be opened before his disappearance or death.
Devil in Plain Sight: Everyone can sense that there is something wrong with Hyde, mostly because he is pure evil. They think he might be deformed in some way, but nobody can quite put their finger on how.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: A popular reading of the book is that Hyde is an outlet for Jekyll's repressed homosexuality. Another is that Hyde is a metaphor for drug addiction.
The small girl running down the street who is knocked over by Hyde? Out in the small hours in the morning, alone in central London? The explanation that she was fetching a doctor rings hollow with some critics: the government acts of the 1870s that covered homosexuality also, less famously, first made sex with 12-15-year olds illegal- child prostitution was another worry at the time.
The description of Sir Danvers' beauty- thought by some to make him sound rather camp- also gets read like this.
Driven to Suicide: After Jekyll realizes that Hyde will take all control of him - both of his body and his personality - he restrains himself to his lab until the final transformation. Hyde takes cyanide when Utterson shows up outside the lab and demands to see Jekyll.
Evil Feels Good: Only the original version, not the adaptations. This is the very reason Jekyll thinks separating his evil side from his good side is a good idea — as Hyde, he's free to do anything without restraint from the law — or, far more importantly, his own conscience. This was a very prescient idea in Victorian England.
GIFT: The great appeal of Hyde to Jekyll is that he can't be held responsible for Hyde's crimes.
Jekyll: But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safely was complete. Think of it—I did not even exist! Let me but escape into my laboratory door, give me but a second or two to mix and swallow the draught...and whatever he had done, Edward Hyde would pass away like the stain of breath upon a mirror; and there in his stead, quietly at home...would be Henry Jekyll.
Here is how Mr. Enfield explains his reluctance to start asking questions about other people's business:
"...the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask."
Then there's how Jekyll describes the duality of man, using an old word for a bundle of sticks:
"It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together...."
Hearing Voices: It is highly suggested in the final chapter that Jekyll was able to hear Hyde inside his head, because "(Hyde) was constantly demanding to get out". However, there is no sentence that 100% confirms this.
Miraculous Malfunction: An "impurity of salt" is what makes the transformation from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde possible. This is what finally dooms Hyde—he doesn't know what the impurity is, and when his salt runs out, he can't replace it.
The Napoleon: Hyde is frequently described as being "small" and "shorter than average". This is explained as being because Jekyll never indulged in his evilness before, so his evil side is "underdeveloped".
Pragmatic Adaptation: Jekyll wasn't the central character of the original story—the story is told from the POV of Mr. Utterson, Jekyll's old friend and lawyer who investigates the mystery. Most of the original story depicts Hyde's actions as being told about instead of shown. The twist ending was revealed in a letter where everything is again told instead of shown. Most adaptations, instead, focus on depicting Jekyll's dramatic struggle between his two selves and his eventual downfall, since everybody already knew the ending. (Utterson, the main character, is a bit part in the 1931 film and is left out of the 1941 film completely.
Pure Is Not Good: Henry Jekyll, a man with mostly good and some evil urges, thinks that if he could separate his good and bad urges into separate identities, life would be better, because he would be free of morality and can indulge himself on every pleasurable vice without hypocrisy. Then his bad side crosses the Moral Event Horizon and Jekyll’s life is threatened. The only thing that made Jekyll’s safe was his hypocrisy. Mirrored with the “impurity of salt”, the impurities had made the potion work. Without the contamination of the samples, he cannot make the transformation work.
The Smurfette Principle: One of critics' favorite subjects is how no nominal women appear in the original book or even get involved in the plot except as spectators or victims. For some reason, you would never know this from most adaptations...
This Is Your Brain on Evil: The addiction metaphors are obvious... and appropriately creepy. This was written at a time when the effects of opium addiction were just coming to light.
Twist Ending: Hard to believe these days because It Was His Sled, but if you can forget what you already know while reading it, it's actually a brilliantly set-up ending.
Uncanny Valley:invoked This is how the other characters describe Hyde and recognize that he's not quite right. They always describe him as looking "deformed" somehow, despite having no outwardly noticeable disfigurements. This is subtlety is lost on subsequent adaptations, mostly because it's hard to show on screen, and partly because Evil Is Sexy sells better.
Would Hurt a Child: In his first appearance Hyde literally walks over a little girl he meets on the street.
The 1931 movie provides examples of:
Academy Award: Frederic March's Best Actor win is one of the very few times the Academy has chosen to honor a horror film. (The clean sweep by The Silence of the Lambs is a more dramatic example.)
Betty and Veronica: Jekyll is engaged to virtuous Miriam, but is clearly attracted to Ivy the slutty bargirl. This is one of the reasons he changes into Hyde. (As noted above this story element was introduced by the stage play and was continued in most adaptations, including the 1941 film).
Evil Feels Good: It's clear that Jekyll uses Hyde to indulge his frustrated sexual desires.
Have a Gay Old Time: Miriam (Dr Jekyll's fiance) says that she does not believe Dr Jekyll loves her seriously. He responds with "Oh, I love you better than that. I love you gayly!"
The Hays Code: This film predates it, and has some racy for its day moments (mostly with Ivy). In the scene where she tries to seduce Jekyll, Miriam Hopkins wears less clothing than any actress would have been allowed to get away with just a few years later.
The Oner: The movie begins with a three-minute continuous shot which moves between two interiors across a large set — both technically and aesthetically daring for the time. Even more impressively, this shot is from Jekyll's point of view. At one point the camera-as-Jekyll even looks in a mirror; the production had the actor standing on the other side of a glassless frame, with a duplicated section of room-scenery behind him.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: During one of the hallucinatory montages when Jekyll transforms into Hyde, he has a vision of Ivy the barmaid's head as the cork in a champagne bottle—and the cork pops.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: A pretty startling example for 1941. During another transformation montage, we see Jekyll as a carriage driver whipping his horses. Then the horses transform into Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner, and Jekyll continues to whip them.
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