Documentaries on Robert Louis Stevenson – RLS Website


[1924 film of Stevenson’s Edinburgh days: reference in “Stevenson Unwhitewashed. Was His Story of Jekyll and Hyde Enacted in Real Life?’, Current Opinion [New York] (Dec 1924): 709-10. The anonymous author remarks on ‘the announcement from Scotland that a film of his “Edinburgh Days” has just been completed, p. 709]

1938 Glencoe and Appin
Director: E. McGinley
[16 mm amateur educational documentary; made for children studying the Massacre of Glencoe and novel Kidnapped; Scottish Screen Archive at the National Library of Scotland; 8 min.]


[c.1946 G. B. Stern, planned a script for a film on the life of Stevenson. See G. B. Stern (1948), No Son Of Mine, London, Cassell, p. 8 (Preface): “I had persuaded a film company to let me make a script on the life of Robert Louis Stevenson; an idea which I had treasured for many years before”]

1951 Notes on the Port of St. Francis
Director and Producer: Frank Stauffacher
Narrator: Vincent Price
[16 mm. documentary on San Francisco; except for the printed quotation from Walter de la Mare at the very beginning, and a word or two here and there, the words of the spoken commentary are from RLS’s “A Modern Cosmopolis” (1883); 22 min.]


1962 A Child’s Garden of Verses
Director: W.S. Dobson
[Dramatised versions of five poems from Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ using young children as actors. Includes ‘The Swing’, ‘My Shadow’, ‘Pirate Story’, ‘Marching Song’ and ‘My Ship and I’. Starts with a dramatised section about RLS and his nurse Alison Cunningham. Amateur Cine World award winner 1963. Film shot in and around Colinton. Available in the Scottish Screen Archive]

1963 A View from the Bass
Director: Henry Cooper
Production: Films of Scotland
[35 mm promotional film about East Lothian, in particular the town of North Berwick and its links with Robert Louis Stevenson; Scottish Screen Archive at the National Library of Scotland; 15 min.]

[c.1970 Heather on Fire; a BBC Scotland dramatization in which S appears as a character; further information required]


1986 Tusitala – Teller of Tales
Director: Don Sharp
Production: Ray Alchin; ABC-Portman, Australia
Cast: John McEnery (RLS), Angela Punch McGregor (Fanny Stevenson), Ray Barrett (Moors), John Gregg (Cusack-Smith)
Script: Peter Yeldham
[dramatization of RLS’s last four years in the South Pacific “with a simplistic anti-English, pro-Australian approach” (RD); 6 x 52 min.]

1987 Across The Plains
Production: BBC 1
Script: Alanna Knight
[Adaptation of The Amateur Emigrant]
[1988 The Ballad Of Robert Louis Stevenson, script by Alanna Knight with David Jensen; pilot TV programme by Bon Accord Productions 1988]

1989 Meet the Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Director: Cynthia Cowens
Production: SRA/McGraw-Hill
Script: Frank Beck
Distributor: SRA/McGraw-Hill, Desota, Texas
[uses still images from the Beinecke collection at Yale and other sources, including a number of photographs never published before; named one of the ten best children’s videos of the year by the American Library Association; in 1994 it was used as part of the main Centenary commemoration exhibition at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh and organized by the Writers’ Museum (where it made a very effective conclusion to the visit.]

1992 Treasured Islands: Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific
Production: Lowell Holmes, Richard Charles Welsbacher, University of California.
Script: Lowell Holmes
Distributor: U of Calif Extension Media Center
[Begins with the details of a voyage to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Society Islands, and Hawai’i, then describes the author’s arrival in the Samoan Islands and his decision to settle there, his involvement in the Polynesian lifestyle and local political events. Ends with Stevenson’s death and burial on Mt. Vaea. 57 min. Holmes also published a book with the same title in 2001]

1994 Dead Man’s Chest
Production: BBC World Service (radio)
Presenter and Writer: Nick Rankin
Voice: John Sessions (RLS)
[3-part documentary programme broadcast December 1994; distinct from Nick Rankin’s in-the-footsteps biography with the same title: this is an overview of Stevenson’s life and works, with many interviews with scholars, Stevenson curators and others, readings from RLS’s works and letters, with appropriate music and sound clips from notable film and radio productions]

1994 Stevenson’s Travels
Director: John Archer
Production: John Archer; BBC Scotland
Script: Tony Mulholland
Voices: Julian Glover (narrator), David Rintoul (RLS)
[well-researched documentary, in the Omnibus series, on the whole of RLS’s career, divided effectively into topological / bibliographical “chapters”; includes interviews with prominent Stevenson scholars; the Stevenson voice-overs are very evocative; teacher’s backup material; 2 x 50 min.]

[1996 Robert Louis Stevenson’s America: planned documentary to be produced and directed by James S. Culp (Film History Foundation) about Stevenson’s life and work in America]

1996 The Birth of Horror: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Director: Deerek Towers
Production: Derek Towers; Wall to Wall / BBC
Script and Presenter: Christopher Frayling
[well-researched and stimulating documentary on the background and composition of Stevenson’s novella, 60 mins.; an episode in the series Nightmare: the Birth of Horror, also the title of an accompanying book by Frayling]

2000 Robert Louis Stevenson
Production: ARD-Saarländischer Rundfunk, Germany
Script: Alexander Kulpok
[Broadcast 13 November 2000 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Stevenson’s birth; 30 mins.]


2002 Famous Authors: Robert Louis Stevenson
Production: Landmark Media
[videocassette for Senior High and College students; 30 mins.]

2003 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Great Books Series)
Director and Scriptwriter: Judith Dawn Hallet
Production: Judith Dawn Hallet; US Learning Channel
Narrator: Michael Madsen
Cast (for dramatized sections): Michael David (RLS), Max Macfie (young RLS), Felicitas Macfie (Cummy), Bill McDonald (Jekyll), Davyth Hicks (Hyde), Claire Hubbard (trampled girl), John Macfie (Utterson), Alan Marchbank (Lanyon)
[includes interviews with Roger Swearingen, Jenni Calder, Ian Rankin, Stephen Arata and Gordon Hirsch; shot mainly in Edinburgh; includes stills of paintings and illustrations from a number of collections. Trampling, breaking-down-the-door and exploration-of-the-cabinet scenes are well done; interesting mirror shots. The film tells the story of Stevenson’s novella, interweaving this with interpretation: the good vs bad interpretation is rather reductive and also the-scientist-going-too-far and the descent-into-addictive behaviour: these seem commonplaces taken from the film tradition; however the interviewed commentators make some good points. 52 mins. ]

2004 Jekyll and Hyde: The True Story
Director: Christopher Rowley
Production: Cream Productions, USA / Discovery Channel
Narrator: Jack Fortune
Cast: Ben Johnson (RLS)
[TV documentary based on the idea that Deacon Brodie was the original of Dr Jekyll and that the transforming potion came to Stevenson from his use of medicinal drugs; 50 mins.]

2004 Quattro chiacchiere su Stevenson [A Gossip on Stevenson]
Director: Costantino Sarnelli
Production: Le Cercle Rouge, Busca, Italy
Script: Laura Chiotasso
[Video-documentary (made in the Upper Town of Bergamo in June 2004) with Jean-Pierre Naugrette, Richard Ambrosini and Richard Dury and dramatic presentation by Elisa Dani. The three Stevensonians have their ‘four chats’ on Stevenson in particular on the role of ‘imagination’ in his thought, switching between Italian and French, and read extracts from his essays and poems in French and English in the monastery of S. Agostino, in the garden of ‘Da Mimmo’ and at the entrance of the old Teatro Socale]

2005 The Adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson
Director: Andrew Thompson
Production: BBC 1
Cast: Ewen Bremner (RLS)
[A drama-documentary with dramatized scenes from Stevenson’s life and excerpts from his letters and family albums, plus contributions from Ian Rankin, Robert Winston, Frank McLynn and Bella Bathurst. Attention is paid to the connections between the life and works. Included on the DVD version of the BBC Kidnapped (2005)]

2005 Viaggio nel Pacifico con Stevenson nei Mari del Sud [Voyage with Stevenson in the South Seas]
Director, Scriptwriter: Maria Zuppello
Production:Macchina del Tempo channel / Mediaset, Italy
[Broadcast December 2005 on the Macchina del Tempo channel (Sky platform)]

2006 Les aventuriers des mers du Sud [Adventurers in the South Seas]
Director: Daniel Vigne
Production: ARTE France and Exilène Films
Script: Michel Le Bris and Daniel Vigne
Cast: Stéphane Freiss (RLS), Jane Birkin (Fanny Stevenson), Géraldine Chaplin (Maggie Stevenson), Stéphane Medez (Lloyd), Maria Teresa Carrasco (Belle)
[Broadcast on the French/German Arte channel 14 and 21 April 2006; the two parts are (i) ‘Le falé Stevenson’; (ii) ‘La route de la gratitude’ and cover Stevenson’s life in Samoa, especially his involvement in political and colonial developments. The film is part of a series ‘Les écrivains voyageurs’ about writers and geopolitics at the turn of the nineteenth century]

2006 Ai minimi drammi. Tales of Moralities
Director: Costantino Sarnelli
Production: Le Cercle Rouge, Busca, Italy
Screenplay: Laura Chiotasso
[with members of the theatrical association Le Cercle Rouge (Busca, Italy) and contributions from Stevenson scholars. Short film on Stevenson’s Fables, with readings, enigmatic dramatized scenes (of people discussing the Fables etc.), and comments and discussions on distinctive literary features and themes by Stevenson scholars (Robert Louis Abrahamson, Richard Ambrosini and Richard Dury), the dominant style being of fluid audio-visual sequences (including the reading of some Fables accompanied by music, words on the screen, patterns etc.). In mixed Italian and English with subtitle translations into the other language. The DVD of the film is available from le Cercle Rouge, Busca, Italy]

2007 Ian Rankin Investigates: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Director and Scriptwriter: Richard Downes
Production: BBC 4
Presenter: Ian Rankin
[Broadcast 16 June 2007, following the first of a six-part new drama series Jekyll (set in present-day London); traces the roots of the extraordinary story back to Stevenson’s childhood and youth in Edinburgh—stories of double lives and grave-robbers, his own double life “all helped inspire the disturbing account of Dr Henry Jekyll’s double life”. Rankin also classes Stevenson as a huge influence on his own career. He says: “When my first Rebus was published I found to my surprise that everyone thought I’d written a crime novel. Nobody guessed that I was trying to follow in the footsteps of a novelist like Stevenson.” The second half of the documentary is set in London focussing especially on the anatomist John Hunter whose house on Leicester Square has affinities with Jekyll’s house and also covers the story of the composition.]

2007 Schatzinsel Spezial – Die wahre Geschichte [Treasure Island Special – The True Story]
Director: Robert Krause
Production: Monaco Films / ProSieben, Gemany
[broadcast 26 November 2007; a documentary (accompanying the 2007 TV adaptation of Treasure Island) based on Reisen im Licht der Sterne (2005) in which Alex Capus suggests that Stevenson was inspired to write Treasure Island by the story of the pirated church-treasure of Lima, buried on Cocos Island. Capus further suggests that the treasure was actually buried on another Cocos Island not far from Samoa, that Stevenson found this out, and (possibly) found the treasure there himself; 52 min.]

2008 Handle Carefully
Director and Scriptwriter: Sara Rizzo
Voice: Richard Dury
[Short video, published on YouTube: an interpretative version of the last chapter in JH narrated by Dr Jekyll, a part of Stevenson’s text not usually followed closely in film versions. After finishing a thesis on film and comic-book versions of JH, Sara Rizzo decided to experiment with ways in which it could be narrated as film. She says: “I wanted to re-focalize the existential drama on Jekyll (in the film versions Hyde ‘steals the scene’) and relegate the double to theatrical space, which of course is a projection of reality”].