The Head of Janus

The Head of Janus
The Head of Janus
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Produced by Erich Pommer
Written by Novel:
Robert Louis Stevenson
Hans Janowitz
Cinematography Karl Freund
Carl Hoffmann
Carl Weiss
Release date(s) Germany August 26, 1920
Country Germany Germany
Language Silent film
German intertitles

The Head of Janus (ger. Der Januskopf) was a 1920 horror silent film directed by F. W. Murnau. The film was an unauthorized adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but the source material went unrecognized by the German media due to changes in the characters' names.[1]

Released on September 17, 1920 by the Lipow Co., this is one of Murnau's lost films. The screenplay was written by Hans Janowitz, who collaborated with Carl Mayer on the script for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). While the film itself does not survive, the scripts and related production notes do, from which some of the more salient points of the plot can be pieced together.



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

It is at this point Dr. Warren first transforms into the gruesome character 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 back again. A second transformation proves to be his ruin, committing random acts of violence in the streets.

Ultimately, Dr. Warren as Mr. O'Connor is forced to take poison after locking himself in his laboratory. He dies, clutching the statue to his chest.


An intriguing note on the script points to possibly the first instance of a moving camera in cinematic history. When the doctor is climbing the stairs to his laboratory, Janowitz's notes state "Camera follows him up the stairs".[citation needed]


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'.

Credited Cast

  • Conrad Veidt as Dr. Warren / Mr. O'Connor
  • Magnus Stifter as Dr. Warren's friend
  • Margarete Schlegel as Jane Lanyon / Grace
  • Willy Kaiser-Heyl as Extra
  • Béla Lugosi as Dr. Warren's Butler
  • Margarete Kupfer as Extra
  • Danny Guertler as Extra
  • Gustav Botz as Extra
  • Jaro Fürth as Extra
  • Hans Lanser-Rudolf as Extra
  • Marga Reuter as Extra
  • Lanja Rudolph as Extra

Also known as

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (UK)
  • Der Januskopf – Eine Tragödie am Rande der Wirklichkeit (Germany)
  • Love's Mockery
  • Schrecken (Germany) (trailer title)
  • The Head of Janus
  • The Janus Head
  • The Two-Faced Man (USA) (informal literal English title)

See also


  1. ^ Hardy 1995, p. 27.


External links

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