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Friday, June 08, 2018

More Of Jekyll-Hyding


Dual Selling For Dual Personalities

Turns out the Jekyll-Hyde model for 1941 had twofold sales advantage, as, like J/H himself, it fell into dual categories as "one of the super-horror pictures of all time," or "an out-and-out romance," showmen advised to take a pick as to emphasis. Where chilling was aim, bally tricks were old as movies themselves, a mad lab for the lobby emulating Jekyll's own, cut-out monster heads, kid drawing contests, the lot. Posted jingles sucked out whatever dignity might have been inherent in literary origins: "Tracy is dashing; the ladies sinuous; popular prices --- performances continuous." For any exhibitor where money was concern (99% of them), a good display could be built from spit-glue always a handmaiden to promoting. Thomas D. Soriero of the United Artists Theatre in Los Angeles got a distortion mirror like ones at a fun house and hung it inside his checkroom, heavy black curtain and cloths lining the entrance and walls. Soriero wanted patrons to get a slant of themselves as Hyde, and figured a wacky mirror was surest way to give it to them.




Metro's Idea Of a Shock Combo in October 1954
To this he added the "magic potion" gag others had used to pump Jekyll-Hyde. That meant moving the house's water cooler to the entrance and replacing "the usual aqua pura" with water made green by vegetable coloring (harmless to the taste, but icky to look at). "The management dares you to tamper with the supernatural. Drink the Hyde solution. If you do ... what will happen?" The mirror hung amidst blackened trappings would answer that. "When you enter the scientific chamber, you will be transformed from human to devil. It will be revealed to you your secret longings. Eerie! Weird! Exciting!" Management took no responsibility for anyone that met his/her "death from a heart attack in the horror chamber," nor was there assurance that once transformed, a patron could "revert back to your natural self after drinking the fluid." The stunt, said Soriero, was "in the bag" as long lines formed outside the cloakroom-cum-horror chamber. Altogether cost was a well-worth-it $7.50, which was what Soriero paid for the mirror.




The 1941 Jekyll-Hyde went well into profit, likely thanks to hoopla like this, and maybe Metro remembered how the horror slant paid, because when Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came back in October 1954, on a double with A Woman's Face, the fear factor was hammered without inhibition. You'd have thought these were cheapies out of Lippert, or something United Artists agreed, minus a better judgment, to distribute. Leo had a vigorous reissue program that year --- The Asphalt Jungle encoring with Battleground, and a couple Tarzans of theirs were revived as a pair. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with A Woman's Face were tendered frankly as monster movies, which maybe Jekyll was, if you stretched a point, but all A Woman's Face had was Joan Crawford with face-scorch that in any case got removed by plastic surgery half way through. To call this one a horror film was plain misleading, and I wonder if admission-burnt youngsters didn't spread word that here was a cluck. Receipts varied from key site to key site. Memphis censors in 1954 wouldn't allow Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into theatres because Ingrid Bergman was in it, her a harlot still radioactive to decent patronage. Oldies from MGM and elsewhere did OK generally, kept distribution staffs hopping at least, but amounted not to windfalling, unless they were of Gone With The Wind caliber. Still, Jekyll copped $185K in fresh receipts. Before television came to a high dollar rescue, this was about a best an average vaultie could do.

5 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

From Griff ---


Dear John:

MGM reissued A WOMAN'S FACE (with JEKYLL) as a horror movie? Gosh. Who'd have thought that old Leo was still trying new tricks back in the day?

Is some context here possible? Was $185K (I'm guessing this is a rentals figure) an acceptable reissue outcome? What would Metro net on something like this after expenses? [Of course, a re-release helped feed the company's distribution system and overhead.]

Regards,
-- Griff

Good point about that $185K domestic rentals figure, Griff. On the one hand, it was found money based on the fact both titles were oldies, though at the same time, Metro would have had to generate fresh paper to advertise them, plus 35mm SAFETY prints to distribute, that last no small expense, depending on how many prints were generated. I could wonder if, in the long run, the reissues seemed worth it.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Decades later, didn't MGM do a theatrical reissue triple feature of MASK OF FU MANCHU, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE and the Paramount DR. JEKYLL (which they owned, post pre-code edit?) I'm thinkin' 1972 or so...

12:49 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

There was a triple bill of those films, though, unfortunately, it did not show up near me.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Those were the censored versions edited as well for time. Fortunately we now have them uncensored and unedited on digital. Paramount's DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is easily the best version as far as I am concerned altho no version presents Hyde as the charismatic and physically handsome creature Robert Louis Stevenson describes. Remember, Lucifer was the most beautiful of all the angels.

6:08 AM  
Blogger iarla said...

For comparison purposes, a Fox re-release of "Forever Amber" in '53 ( a blockbuster in '47) copped 95,000. Maybe sensing its appeal, Fox reissued/demoted Amber from the original Technicolor to B/W prints. The "Hyde" reissue take is impressive. Not sure the Crawford was the more attractive draw in this lineup.

8:03 AM  

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