A modern remake of a literary classic is mostly on the mark

by Ed Blackadder

Written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1880s, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has shared its characters, or been shot in its entirety over an astonishing three hundred times. In this true-to-text adaptation by B. Luciano Barsuglia, we’re gifted with a movie version that serves the dual purpose of entertaining and educating, something lacking in too many treatments these days.

And while that in itself makes this film worth seeing, it’s also the very last film of the much-loved, Oscar-winner Mickey Rooney who passed away at the age of 93. Mr. Rooney shared his scenes with none other than Margaret O’Brien (The Secret Garden), another Oscar-winner from the golden age of cinema.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tells the tale of how friendship and honor lead lawyer Mr. Utterson to seek out the horrific truth about his client, Doctor Henry Jekyll, and the unlikely link to the singularly cruel and twisted Mr. Hyde.

This is clearly an independent production with an independent budget to match, but the cast and crew clearly do the best with they have.  Taking on the risks of a period piece on a micro-budget is no easy task, but Barsuglia and his crew keep the reality of an unspecified time period circa 1900.

The film is well acted from the key players and the accents are well-done.  A few of the actors, such as Gianni Capaldi (Hyde) are UK natives so the accent fits perfect.  Leads David Beatty (Utterson) and Shaun Piccinino (Jekyll) do a nice job of tackling their roles in this drama.  Capaldi and supporting actor Jed Rowen (Lanyon) have been honored with multiple acting awards on the festival circuit as well.

The retelling is strongest for those watchers familiar with the Stevenson novella.  It is a far cry from the monster movies associated with Jekyll and Hyde, but it is a slow-paced, slow burn crime drama, much truer to form.  I would expect this movie will find its place in the classroom where it will serve its primary purpose of serving education.

Where this movie falls short are on the clear shortcomings of working on a micro-budget.  However, if you let yourself simply enjoy the movie, these shortcomings are easy to overcome.

Keep in mind, this is a low budget production and it does have flaws, however, if you let yourself succumb, it’s pure enjoyement and it truly is an accurate adaptation of the novella.

Ed’s Grade: B