The John Barrymore Collection [4 Discs] [DVD]
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Overview

Synopsis

Sherlock Holmes
John Barrymore's impressive performance in this picture is a testament to the strength of his talent, because it had a lot to overcome -- according to director Albert Parker, the famed thespian was on a bender for much of the shoot. This version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories (adapted from the play by William Gillette) was shot on location in London and Switzerland; when the crew headed back to the States to complete shooting, Parker pleaded with Barrymore to quit drinking. Surprisingly, Barrymore obliged, and was sober for the rest of production. The storyline follows the play pretty closely, including Holmes' early days, in which he decided to study criminology after college graduation. Along with his faithful assistant, Dr. Watson (Roland Young), Holmes comes face to face with arch criminal Professor Moriarty (Gustav von Seyffertitz). Moriarty is causing trouble for Prince Alexis (Reginald Denny), and Holmes craftily outwits the villain. This excellent picture had only a few faults -- one was its lengthy subtitles. The other noticeable gaffe was casting Carol Dempster (who was borrowed from D.W. Griffith) to play the romantic interest, Alice Faulkner -- her performance is only passable. A young William Powell has a small supporting role. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
In 1920, filmgoers were treated to no fewer than two different film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this one, John Barrymore plays the humanitarian Dr. Henry Jekyll, who becomes obsessed with the notion of separating the good and evil impulses within every man. To this end, he develops a potion which unleashes his own darker side: the demonic Mr. Hyde. This was the adaptation which established the cliché of having both a "good" and "bad" leading lady, to parallel the doppelganger aspects of the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Martha Mansfield is the good girl, while Nita Naldi, wearing costumes that were daring indeed in 1920, is the bad one. The adaptors also borrowed the character of Lord Henry from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray in order to provide Jekyll with an evil mentor/blackmailer. Sadly, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde proved to be one of the last starring films for leading lady Martha Mansfield: she died horribly during filming of The Warrens of Virginia (1924) when her costume touched a discarded match and burst into flame. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Tempest
One of John Barrymore's best-remembered silent films (mainly because it is one of the few that has remained in constant circulation), The Tempest is set before, during and after the Russian Revolution. Barrymore plays a Czarist military officer who is haughtily rejected by aristocratic Camilla Horn. She goes so far as to strip Barrymore of his rank and toss him into prison (allowing him the opportunity for a wholly irrelevant, but fascinating, "mad" scene). Comes the Revolution, and Barrymore is freed. Put in charge of the Red army, Barrymore now wields the power of life and death over the aristocrats. When a humbled Camilla is brought before him, he refuses to sign her death warrant, but instead kills his hateful superior officer and escapes with his new-found love to the safety of Europe. Barrymore's leading lady Camilla Horn has previously made an excellent impression as Gretchen in F. W. Murnau's production of Faust (1926); her casting in Tempest, however, is due less to her histrionic talents that to the fact that she was the girlfriend of United Artists executive Joseph M. Schenck. Originally, the film was to have been directed by Russian expatriate Victor Tourjanksy, but his working methods were too slow for Hollywood tastes; he was replaced by American journeyman Sam Taylor, who was swift, efficient and (in this instance at least) surprisingly imaginative. The principal artistic value in Tempest lies in the performance by John Barrymore and the cinematography of Charles Rosher, whose Rosher Kino Portrait Lens enabled the 46-year-old Barrymore to appear at least two decades younger on screen. An uncredited Lewis Milestone also was among those at work on the production. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Beloved Rogue
Beloved Rogue stars John Barrymore as legendary Parisian poet/vagabond Francois Villon. The film follows the basic chronology of all Villon dramatizations (If I Were King, The Vagabond King etc.): To ensure the loyalty of his subjects, crotchety King Louis XI (Conrad Veidt) appoints the waggish Villon king for one day. This proves to be a blessing when Villon rouses the thieves, tramps, trollops and other assorted Parisian lowlifes to defend the walled city against the invading Burgundians. Marceline Day, Mack Swain and Slim Summerville also star. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride
Even before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel's solo films were often quite funny, especially when he spoofed a famous film such as The Spoilers (the Laurel version is called The Soilers) or Blood and Sand (which became the two-reel Mud and Sand). One of the funniest of these "travesties," as they were called in those days, was Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride, in which Stan lampoons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As the kindly Dr. Pyckle, Laurel is experimenting to discover a drug that will separate the good from the bad in man. When he finally has an elixir, he drinks it with trepidation. After a satirical sequence of comic spasms, the horrific Mr. Pride reveals himself and proceeds to terrorize the town: he chases a little boy down and steals his ice cream cone, he cheats at a game of marbles, and he explodes a paper bag behind a little old lady, startling her. Worst of all, he tricks one of the town's leading citizens into getting caught in a Chinese finger trap! The whole town is up in arms at these evil acts but Pride manages to take the antidote before they can catch up with him. He goes through yet another transformation before his assistant (Julie Leonard) catches him. Devastated over what he has done, Dr. Pyckle decides to poison himself, but instead of the fatal brew, he mistakenly drinks castor oil. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • John Barrymore
    John Barrymore - Sherlock Holmes
  • Roland Young
    Roland Young - Dr. Watson
  • Carol Dempster
    Carol Dempster - Alice Faulkner
  • Gustav von Seyffertitz
    Gustav von Seyffertitz - Prof. Moriarty
  • Louis Wolheim
    Louis Wolheim - Craigin
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