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The Head of Janus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Der Januskopf
Directed byF. W. Murnau
Written by
Produced byErich Pommer
Lipow Film Company
Distributed byDecla-Bioscop
Release date
  • 26 August 1920 (1920-08-26)
Running time
CountryWeimar Republic

The Head of Janus (German: Der Januskopf) is a 1920 German horror silent film directed by F. W. Murnau. It was also reviewed at the time under the title Schrecken (Terror). The film was an unauthorized adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but the source material went unrecognized by some of the German media due to changes in the characters' names.[1] For example, the Jekyll-Hyde character was called Dr. Warren and Mr. O'Connor in the script.

Released in August of 1920 by the Lipow Co., this is one of F.W. Murnau's lost films.[2] The screenplay was written by Hans Janowitz, who collaborated with Carl Mayer on the script for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). While the film itself no longer survives, the scripts and related production notes do. Because the film is lost, its full length is unknown (imdb somehow lists it at 107 minutes).


Conrad Veidt plays Dr. Warren (the Dr. Jekyll character) who changes into Mr. O'Connor (Mr. Hyde). This transformation is brought about, not by experimentation with chemicals as in Stevenson's novel, but through the supernatural agency of a bust of Janus (the Roman God of the Doorway), which Warren purchases in the opening sequence as a gift for his sweetheart, Jane Lanyon (Margarete Schlegel). When she refuses the gift, horrified, Warren is forced to keep the statuette himself.

It is at this point Dr. Warren first transforms into the gruesome Mr. O'Connor, and returns to Jane's house in a rage, kidnapping her and taking her back to his laboratory. Upon recovery, Warren is horrified by what he has done and tries to sell the bust at auction, but the hold it has over him forces him to buy it right back again.

A second transformation proves to be his ruin, causing him to commit random acts of violence in the streets. Ultimately, the fiend is forced to take poison after locking himself in his laboratory. He dies, clutching the statue to his chest.


Alternate titles

  • Der Januskopf – Eine Tragödie am Rande der Wirklichkeit ("The Janus-Head – A Tragedy on the Border of Reality") (Germany)
  • Love's Mockery
  • Schrecken/ Terror (Germany) (trailer title)
  • The Janus-Head
  • Dr. Warren and Mr. O'Connor
  • Terror (Soviet Union)


A note on the script points to an early instance of Murnau's moving camera. When the doctor is climbing the stairs to his laboratory, Janowitz's notes state "Camera follows him up the stairs".[3]


This adaptation of R. L. Stevenson's classic novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was released in 1920, the same year as an American version, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde released by Paramount Pictures and starring John Barrymore. Swedish film critics of the time found the Murnau production to be more "artistic".[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Hardy 1995, p. 27.
  2. ^ "Der Januskopf". Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  3. ^ Lotte Eisner (1973). Murnau. University of California Press. p. 31. Retrieved 6 March 2013. Janowitz notes Januskopf.


See also

External links

This page was last edited on 27 September 2021, at 23:30
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