London, late 19th century: Doctor Jekyll (Frederic March) wants to marry
his fiancée Muriel (Rose Hobart), but her father, the General (Hobbes
Halliwell) won't agree to their wedding for another 8 months. So, out of
(sexual) frustration, Jekyll buries himself in his research, as he tries to
prove there are 2 sides to the human soul - & he wants to develop a serum
to seperate them. But as he tests the serum on himself, what he didn't expect
was that it would allow his evil - lusting - side to take over.
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Transformed into the ugly, ape-like Hyde, he visits ill-reputed music halls
& soon picks up seductive floozy Ivy (Mariam Hopkins), who once tried to
use her charms on Doctor Jekyll - & she might have succeeded, too, hadn't Jekyll's friend
Lanyon (Holmes Herbert) stepped in just in time.
At first, Jekyll is shocked by his own indecent behaviour as Hyde, but when
the General sends Musiel away from London for a month, Jekyll takes his drug
ever more regularly, & soon he becomes a regular at music-halls & other
ill-reputed businesses & holds Ivy as his personal mistress - even though
she grows more & m ore frightened of Hyde.
When Muriel comes back to London, Jekyll decides to put a halt to his sinful
double life, & even manages to persuade the General to an earlier wedding
date. &, to make up for the evil he has done to Ivy, he sends her some
money. Everything would be alright now, until - just when he is intending to go
to his engagenment celebration - Ivy shows up at Jekyll's home to thank him for
his money & care in person & begs him to help her against Hyde - not
knowing that he is Hyde of course. Jekyll guarantees Ivy that Hyde will never
come back, but the seductive looks & behaviour of the girl soon bring his
Hyde-p4ersona to the fore again - even without the drug - & so, instead of
going to his own engagement party, he goes to Ivy's home to kill her, then has
to flee the police as his crime didn't go unnoticed.
As he has thrown away the key to his house's backdoor & his butler won'T
let the weird-looking Hyde in the front door, he has to rely on Lanyon to get
him the drugs & hand them over to Hyde - but Lanyon has the intention to
uncover the mystery& is niot contempt until he sees Hyde transform back to
Jekyll before his very eyes - then he forces Jekyll to destroy the drug &
give up Muriel to not cause her any harm as well.
Griefingly, Jekyll agrees, but when the next day he breaks up with Muriel,
Hyde takes over again & only the servant's at Muriel's place & a
couple of policemen can stop him from raping &/or murdering the girl. Hyde
can flee, & return to his lab just in time to take the serum that turns him
to Jekyll again, but when Lanyon & the police arrive at Jekyll's house , he
transforms into Hyde again, & only a bullet can stop him now ...
Porduced just months away from the implement of the movie-indutstry's
self-censorship lovingly called the Code, this version of Robert L.Stevenson's
classic novel fittingly plays up the sexual angle of the tale & is very
direct - but not explicit - in its imagery, which proves a deeper understanding
of its source novel, & also makes this probably the best adaptation of The
Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde.
Most later versions would either downplay the sexual overones in favour of a
more conventional monster-story (1941's Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde by Victor Fleming) or
suffocate any deeper meaning with overt sexual scenes (as in Dr.Jekyll &
Mistress Hyde  by Tony Marsiglia).