Monday, April 27, 2015

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Director: Wallace Worsley
Starring: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Kate Lester, Winifred Bryson, Nigel De Brulier, Brandon Hurst, Ernest Torrence, Tully Marshall, Harry von Meter, Raymond Hatton, Nick De Ruiz, Eulalie Jensen, Roy Laidlaw, Ray Myers

In the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a deformed hunchback known as Quasimodo (Chaney) is looked after by the archdeacon (Bruiler), whose brother (Hurst) sways Quasimodo into kidnapping gypsy girl Esmeralda (Miller). Saved by the noble Captain Phoebus (Kerry), Esmeralda takes pity on Quasimodo leading to an unlikely bond between the two.

This love story, of sorts, or perhaps more a story about trust in relationships is adapted from Victor Hugo's novel and given an all-star treatment by Universal Studios. The films popularity influenced the beginning of Universal's Monster series, which began with The Phantom of the Opera featuring Chaney, Kerry and producer Carl Laemmle, and even compared to todays standards, it's episodic feel keeps the film going at an accelerating pace.

Chaney's unrecognisable performance and make-up effects provide such a dangerous yet sympathetic character defines the 3-dimensional character, to which many films these days lack. Miller's Esmeralda is delightfully strong and her image oozes through the lens.

Epic in proportions, this is sure to satisfy anyone interested, whether you be an aficionado of Hugo, Chaney, horror or silent films. It also serves as one of the highest grossing films of the silent era. This was one of noted film producer Irving Thalberg's first producing roles; he later went on to head the merging MGM studios producing Grand Hotel, Freaks and Mutiny on the Bounty. Highly acclaimed director William Wyler, who won Oscars for Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur, served as assistant director.


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