The Head of Janus

The Head of Janus
Directed by F. W. Murnau
Produced by Erich Pommer
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson (novel)
Hans Janowitz
Starring Conrad Veidt
Magnus Stifter
Margarete Schlegel
Willy Kaiser-Heyl
Béla Lugosi
Cinematography Karl Freund
Carl Hoffmann
Carl Weiss
Lipow Film Company
Distributed by Decla-Bioscop
Release dates
  • 26 August 1920 (1920-08-26)
Country Weimar Republic
Language Silent film
German intertitles

The Head of Janus (German: Der Janus-Kopf) is a 1920 German 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 some of the German media due to changes in the characters' names.[1]

Released on 17 September 1920 by the Lipow Co., this is one of 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 (1919). While the film itself does not survive, the scripts and related production notes do. Because the film is lost, its full length is unknown.


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.


Also known as


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'.

See also


  1. Hardy 1995, p. 27.
  2. "Der Januskopf". Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  3. Lotte Eisner. Murnau. Retrieved March 6, 2013.


See also

External links

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