By Emery Nash
The film scholar Robin Wood defined horror film as when “normality is threatened by the Monster.” In early horror films, such as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), the monster often took the form of a literal monster. Sometimes these monster had racial characteristics.
In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, when Dr. Jekyll transforms to personify his worst qualities, director Rouben Mamoulian chose an ape-like caricature—Hyde was sexually deviant and violent—that drew from frequently repeated stereotypes of African Americans. This representation of Hyde drew critics’ attention: a writer in the New York Times wrote that “the face of the handsome young [man]…becomes…a sabre-toothed baboon with pig eyes.”
This evidence, paired with a changing musical score–from the Baroque organ associated with Dr. Jekyll, to English music hall drinking songs paired with Hyde—signifies a “dichotomy between nobility and brutishness…Hyde is…a savage who cannot…adapt…[to] Victorian Society.”
Together, these facts indicate racist undertones in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s musical and cinematic elements.
Emery Nash is a native of Nashville, TN and is a current senior at Davidson College. He is majoring in Biology and Music, and hopes to have a career in social justice, focusing on marginalized populations in American society.
 Robin Wood, “An Introduction to the American Horror Film,” in American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film, edited by Andrew Britton, Richard Lippe, Tony Williams, and Robin Wood (Festival of Festivals, 1979), 14.
 Virginia Wright Wexman, “Horrors of the Body: Hollywood’s Discourse on Beauty and Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: After One Hundred Years, edited by William Veeder and Gordon Hirsch (University of Chicago Press, 1988), 284.
 Siegbert Salomon Prawer, “Book into Film I: Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” in Caligari’s Children: The Film as a Tale of Terror (University of California Press, 1981), 86-107.