Creepy silent film classic ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ to screen in Brandon on Oct. 21

BRANDON — What would fall be without Halloween? And what would Halloween be with some frightening moments in the dark?
This October the Brandon Town Hall will feature a screening of a deliciously frightening film in an absolutely gothic showing of the black-and-white silent classic “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”
This is Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of a man tortured by two personalities — one thoroughly good and the other completely evil. This 1920 silent film adaptation of Stevenson’s classic story, will be shown at the Brandon Town Hall on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. The program, the latest in the town hall’s silent film series, will be accompanied by live music performed by silent film composer Jeff Rapsis. Admission is free, with donations welcome.
Starring iconic actor John Barrymore, the film was a huge early hit for Paramount Pictures. It helped establish the “thriller” genre and showed the potential of the movies to vividly tell disturbing and creepy stories.
Dr. Jekyll, a London physician and philanthropist, becomes fascinated with the dual nature of man after the profligate Sir George Carew exposes him to temptation. When Jekyll invents a potion that separates the good from the evil in a person, he decides to live both roles and names the evil persona Mr. Hyde.
Jekyll is in love with Millicent, the daughter of Sir George; meanwhile, Hyde prowls the poorer districts of London, debases and discards Theresa, a dance hall performer. Jekyll’s control over Hyde weakens gradually to the point where his alter ego resorts to murder, forcing Hyde into a showdown to save his loved ones and reign in the evil he himself has spawned.
The film put Barrymore, a noted stage actor, on the cinematic map. Following “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” Barrymore would go on to be one of the biggest stars of early cinema. His handsome visage, dubbed “the great profile,” was instantly recognizable to moviegoers of the time. Barrymore’s performance in “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” is noteworthy in part because, in an era of limited special effects, his portrayal of the early stages of Jekyll’s transformation was done using only facial expressions and gestures. Make-up was only used later in the film following the full transformation of the Hyde character.
In this screening, the Brandon Town Hall aims to recreate all essential elements of silent film experience: high-quality prints shown on a large screen, with live music and an audience.
“These films caused people to fall in love with the movies for a very good reason,” said Jeff Rapsis, who will improvise a musical score during the screening. “They were unique experiences, and if you can recreate the conditions under which they were shown, they have a great deal of life in them. Though they’re the ancestors of today’s movies, silent film is a very different art form than what you see at the multiplex today, so it’s worth checking out as something totally different.”
Rapsis performs his music on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional “movie score” sound.

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