Nov. 2, 2023

Gothic Romance: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/Mary Reilly

Gothic Romance: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/Mary Reilly

It's Halloween week, and time to confess that I'm strangely attracted to Gothic horror stories and creepy "romance," especially the many interpretations of the fascinating classic 19th century novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Each filmmaker and writer present different themes in their Jekyll and Hyde adaptations, from gender and sexual politics, personal ethics and morality, to abusive patriarchal structures and class and power inequities. The original story featured only men, but that hasn't stopped many modern adaptations of the story from featuring women as a romantic plot point and catalyst for Mr. Hyde's deeply disturbing and scary nuances.

CW: brief scenes and mentions of physical, sexual and psychological abuse

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Spark Notes has the full text of the novella and explorations of its themes and motifs.

"A strange story of mystery and adventure, love and laughter" says the trailer for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941).  I haven't laughed once in all the times I've watched this movie, but there's plenty of mystery, suspense and spookiness.

Here's the "cheap little dreams" scene from the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie. Spencer Tracy is seriously creepy-evil and poor Ingrid had tried to get away from his abuse for weeks and months.

"...[Stevenson] did not wish to have the allegory rigidly defined. 'Everything is true,' he told Sidney Colvin, 'only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned." Fascinating look at the many interpretations and adaptations of the Jekyll and Hyde story.

This scene from Mary Reilly represents the undercurrent of class, intimacy, sexuality, passion and veiled threat that this version brings to the story. Honestly Malkovich is terrifying but Julia Roberts is unflappable as Mary.

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