Dr. Pyckle And Mr. Pride  
 
30 July 1925
Film Booking Offices of America (FBO)/
Standard Photoplay Company/
Selznick Distributing Corporation
silent short
2-reels

 

Director: Scott Pembroke  Producer: Joe Rock  Dialogue: Tay Garnett
Cinematography: Edgar Lyons  Editor: Assistant director: Murray Rock

AVAILABLE ON DVD

Set in 19th century England, the well-respected Dr. Stanilaus Pyckle paces up and down in his laboratory whilst a 'dainty English miss' (Julie Leonard) is looks on, bored.  Suddenly the doctor has a vision: a plan to separate the good from evil in the human mind.  After some pondering, he claims he will try the experiment, even at the risk of it costing someone's life... any life except his own.
Dr. Pyckle works in his lab experimenting with formulas when he accidentally sits down on some spilled acid.  Realising his awkward predicament, he dismisses his assistant from the room whilst he adjusts his uncomfortable burn to his rear with a cushion.  They both return to the lab where the doctor continues to experiment with different potions.  After the frustration of banging his fists on the wall, he dislodges a conveniently-placed vase above him which falls down and hits him on the head.  This gives him the inspiration to conjure up with the perfect formula but he refrains for testing it, knowing "he would become a fiend to himself".  As he contemplates drinking the potion, he manages to fall backwards out of an open window and crashes to the floor outside.  Although the potion is emptied during the fall, it is clear that some of it was digested, as the doctor's behaviour suddenly turns eratic and bringing about an attack of over-acting!
He returns to the lab, and after some muscle-twitching episodes, Dr. Pyckle emerges from the floor as a demented character with a twisted face and maniacal features; he becomes the horrible Mr. Pride.  Taking to the street, dressed in top hat and with cane, the crazed doctor stalks a boy with an ice cream before stealing it from him.  When confronted by a policeman, the mad doctor sneaks away and fires a peashooter at two boys in the street.  It's a lure to get the boys to tell their father and get a crowd of people to give chase.
The doctor leads the six angry men to his laboratory where he consumes another potion to reverse the spell and restore him to his former state of normality.  As the angry mob knock on his door, the doctor's dog (look familiar?) makes his appearance, wearing a wig (!) having licked up some of the potion after it was spilled into his dinner.  Dr. Pyckle has to usher the dog back inside from the shocked onlookers and then bids the callers goodbye.
After being transformed back into the hideous Mr. Pride, the doctor continues his wave of terror against an elderly woman, whom he scares with a party whistle, and the policeman whom he entices to kick a hat on the ground with a concealed brick underneath.
The cop kicks the hat and the brick hits the doctor on the head, causing him to act even more peculiar than usual.  After gathering his thoughts, the mad doctor then assaults a lady (Vera White) and is subsequently chased by the angry mob again.  He accosts one of them (Syd Crossley) on the street corner and offers the gentleman a finger trap, whereby when the man puts fingers from each hand into it he cannot remove them (Stan's facial expressions here are priceless).  This scene is one of the best moments of the film.
Again, the chasing mob are lured back to the lab but find no trace of the man they are seeking, as Pride once again becomes Pyckle.  The mob are told to heave by the sane doctor before he goes inside.  His assistant, who is among the crowd begs for him to allow her inside the lab as she is concerned for him, but on the other side of the door an unexpected transformation takes place with the doctor turning back into the creature he has created.  He deliberately lets her in but when she witnesses what he has become her screams alert the angry crowd from outside.  As the evil Mr. Pride advances upon her with his ugly, contorted face she grabs a bottle and smashes him over the head with it.  He staggers in a daze as the film ends.

Favourite bit
Stan Laurel's "wipe" is among the best gags in the film.  In one shot his face is dirty, and then he holds his left hand up to his forehead and brings his arm down to expose a clean face.  It's a very clever edit and you need to see it again to realise just how good it actually is.

Facts
•For many years this was considered a 'lost' film.
Pete the Dog, most famous for being in the Our Gang films, is seen in this film as Stan's pet.
Stan Laurel handles the dual role scenario pretty well here, alternating between the slightly eccentric professor and the demented psychopath he becomes.  He would perform another good turn in dual roles years later as he is transformed from his dumb 'Stan' character into a well respected scholar in Laurel and Hardy's "A Chump At Oxford" (1940).
Did you notice?
•The clock on the wall in the opening shot says 11:17.  In the very next shot it says 11:30.
•At around 4 minutes into the film, Stan comes out of his lab wearing a pillow strapped to his rear-end.  He makes a very minimal movement towards the camera in order to show it before kissing his assistant before going back into the lab.  It is of my opinion this movement was not scripted and was done because Stan had positioned himself wrong for the shot.  What do you think?
Stan performs his famous head-scratch routine early on as he is experimenting with formulas in the lab.  Except, he uses just one finger to scratch his head before the title card "that's not it" comes up!
There is a great gag where Stan's dirty face is wiped clean by a very clever edit in the film.  He uses a small drop of water from a huge canister and 'wipes' his face.  The shot goes from a dirty face to a clean one.  You don't see the edit in normal time, so it does require a second viewing.  This is fine for DVD users, but back in 1925 this would have looked pretty cool on screen.
•The title card that reads "I'll call it Dr. Pyckle's 58th Variety" is a reference to Heinz, whose company had 57 varieties of food products.
•Stan falls out of a first-floor window and crashes hard onto the ground outside, whilst holding his formula.  Does it not strike you as odd that the glass he was holding remains intact?  And for that matter, a normal person would have required extensive back surgery as well after that fall!
Look closely at the scene where after Stan has fallen out of the window and then runs back up the steps to the lab.  Does anybody else think the background of the shot, particularly the steps, looks like a painted backdrop?   Also, at the bottom of the steps there appears to be a large moulded lump on concrete with a pole sticking out of it.  You have to wonder what that was for?  Next to the steps there is an archway, which has the wording "Passage Privé" written on it.  This is French, meaning "Private passage".  But given that the story takes place in England this makes little sense.
•After luring the men back to the lab, Stan drinks some more of his potion.  His hat clearly has a string on it which lifts the hat off as a gag.  It's not even difficult to see.
•The demented doctor sets up a top hat over a concealed brick, enticing the policeman to kick it, which the cop does.  But seriously, if you saw a hat on the sidewalk, would it really be human nature to want to kick it?  I would suggest that most normal people wouldn't!
•When Stan in his demented state sees the woman in the street (whom I believe is Vera White) he rounds a lamp-post on the corner.  Watch how it wobbles considerably.
•There is a pool hall owned by Morellis seen in the street.

Stan Laurel
Dr. Stanislaus Pyckle/
Mr. Pride
Julie Leonard
Dainty English miss
Syd Crossley
Townsman
Vera White
Townswoman
Pete
Tige, the dog
  Dot Farley
Townswoman
   
UNIDENTIFIED
Boy with ice cream
UNIDENTIFIED
Policeman
UNIDENTIFIED
Townswoman
UNIDENTIFIED
Bored laboratory onlookers
(3rd left is Syd Crossley)


Acknowledgements:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0015763/ (IMDb.com)
http://www.filmaffinity.com/en/filmimages.php?movie_id=240562 (lobby card)
"Laurel OR Hardy" by Rob Stone (book)
Steve Massa (identification of Syd Crossley)

This page was last updated on: 30 July 2015