This Film Is 100 Years Old

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

For some reason, 1920 seems to have been the unofficial year of Jekyll and Hyde, with this film, directed by John S. Robertson, and starring John Barrymore in the title role, one of four separate versions released over the course of the year (although there had been seven versions released prior to 1920, too, so maybe every year was the year of Jekyll and Hyde, to some extent, back then).

In this version, Dr. Jekyll is almost impossibly beautiful, his every expression one of such open kindness that, as he gets slowly sadder and more melancholy as the film progresses, his innocence slowly corrupted by his counterpart’s actions, it feels genuinely heartbreaking. Mr. Hyde, meanwhile, is a figure of leering menace and absolute malevolence, and the contrast between them is so great its almost impossible to remember, at times, that they’re both played by the same person.

And although John Barrymore’s portrayal of Hyde relies increasingly on his physical degeneracy into some sort of malign barely human goblin, the most impressive scene of the film is the initial transformation, where, through the simple power of acting (ACTING!), Jekyll’s beatific face contorts into Hyde’s malignant sneer.

The whole film, in fact, is stuffed full of classic horror images, though whether this film is the source of their the origin, or merely an early collation of such effective imagery, I don’t have the depth of knowledge to tell you. But I can at least show you a selection of stills, which should more than make up for my ignorance as a whole.

And though the film itself is slow at times (especially in the beginning), it is completely confident in its own direction, and also at times feels startlingly modern, such as in a flashback scene shown in sepia tinted hues, to indicate its age, in a black and white film, in 1920; or the unsettling surreality of a late nightmare, where a ghostly lobster (or possibly one of the microscopic mites Dr. Jekyll views under his microscope at the start, now grown to some monstrous size) climbs up onto the sleeping Jekyll’s bed and attacks him while he sleeps.

So yes, this is good. You should watch it.



1. I watched this today on youtube.

2. Although I first saw it about 4 years ago at the Colchester Arts Centre, with a live soundtrack by Jason Frederick

3. Which can be bought here

4. If you’re so inclined.

5. (It’s worth it, because it’s great)

6. This doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, I suppose, but early on in this there’s this amazing interjection of unbroken cockney into the narrative, which left me wondering, once again, whether this addition of extra H’s, to make up for all the ones we drop, ever existed in actual spoken cockney, or was just a fabrication of the upper classes trying to mimic their speech (the 1950s book The Snow Goose is absolutely chock full of that sort of nonsense too, and that was definitely beyond the point where such a thing could ever have occurred, in so far as none of my relatives ever did such a thing, and they’d have been long alive by then).

7. The other three versions of Jekyll and Hyde from 1920 are: A satirical parody of this one, starring one of the Keystone Cops, and is now entirely lost; a version directed by J. Charles Haydon and starring Sheldon Lewis, that was released soon after this John Barrymore version, and was a huge failure (and although this version doesn’t appear to be actually lost, I failed to find a version online to watch for this article); and Der Janus-Kopf, a German adaptation directed by FW Murnau, starring Conrad Veidt (as both Jekyll and Hyde) and Bela Lugosi (as neither Jekyll nor Hyde).

8. That version is also entirely lost, which is heartbreaking, because presumably it was utterly perfect in every way.

9. I mean, just look at the poster

10. And then weep.

Film Information

Title: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Director: John S. Robertson
Year: 1920
Duration: 80 minutes
Watch: youtube

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Nude Woman By Waterfall (1920)

Nude Woman By Waterfall is a short film from 1920, directed by Claude Friese-Greene, featuring a nude woman by a waterfall, and the same woman, not so nude, upon a cliff top. I reviewed it earlier in the year (well, “reviewed” it), and really loved it. It’s beautiful, beguiling, mysterious, odd, sad. All the best things in film, really.

Anyway, I rewatched it again today, because the always excellent Haiku Salut (who previously released/toured a live soundtrack to Buster Keaton’s The General) have released a new soundtrack for it, called Portrait In Dust.

Recorded as part of a project to re-score two films for the BFI (the other was 4 And 20 Fit Girls, from 1940, which they paired with Pattern Thinker), Portrait In Dust is a lovely piece of minimalist melancholy, which perfectly underscores the slightly unsettling ethereality of the film.

Anyway, it’s brilliant and I love it.



1. I watched this on the BFI Player, while simultaneously listening to Haiku Salut on bandcamp

2. Earlier in the year I made a re-edit of this film, using the track Messy Hearts by Moon Ate The Dark as accompaniment.

3. In which I used all of Nude Woman By Waterfall except the shots of the nude woman by the waterfall.

4. I had hoped to show it somewhere

5. Sometime

6. But I fear that now the chance has gone

7. For a variety of reasons

8. Not least because Haiku Salut’s soundtrack is perfect.

9. And also everywhere is closed.

10. And always now shall be.

11. Maybe I should just project it out into the night

12. Onto the bamboo at the end of the garden

13. As they rustle in the wind

14. And weep in the rain.

15. Anyway I’ve added it to youtube here if you want a watch, but have no idea who long it will stay there, if their copyright robots allow it to live.


Film Information

Title: Nude Woman By Waterfall
Director: Claude Friese-Greene
Year: 1920
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: BFI; youtube (extract only)

This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Pirates Of 1920 (1911)

Pirates Of 1920 is a (partially incomplete) science fiction film from 1911 directed by Dave Aylott and A.E. Coleby, set in the terrifying far future of 1920, where a group sky pirates roam the world causing fairly slow havoc in their zeppelin, robbing cruise liners and stealing beautiful women from their husbands-to-be.

This future is 100 years old!

Anyway, I like the use of tints in different scenes, which is used to good effect, with blue for the night time scenes and an ominous red for an explosion (the model effects are great, too).

I also really liked this strangely specific not the sky pirates prisoner dropped out of the airship in an attempt to get help in her escape.

Unfortunately the film itself is a bit generic, and as the last five minutes of it have been lost, none of us will ever know if Jack Manley, our excellently named hero, successfully saves our plucky heroine from those dastardly pirates in the end or not.

But we can hope and we can dream.



1. I watched this on the BFI Player here

2. There’s loads of things called Pirates of 1920 on youtube, but none of them actually seem to be this, for some reason.

3. The use of tinting in this reminded me of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916 version), which I saw a few years ago, and which had different tints depending on whether scenes were set underwater, on Captain Nemo’s submarine, or outside, an so on.

4. I saw that version with a live soundtrack by the band Fishclaw, and it was really great.

5. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find any snippets of their soundtrack anywhere

6. And also I can’t find whatever tinted version of the film they showed anywhere either, with every version on youtube or wherever in boring old permanent black and white.

7. Anyway, I enjoyed 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea very much and might watch it again soon.

8. Especially as I’m pretty sure it was while watching that that I decided to make this website.

9. And then took 4 years to actually get round to doing it.

10. But now I have, so everything is okay.

Film Information

Title: Pirates Of 1920
Director: Dave Aylott and A.E. Coleby
Year: 1911
Duration: 17 minutes
Watch: BFI Player