October 19, 2016

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923).

Review #850: The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Lon Chaney (Quasimodo), Patsy Ruth Miller (Esmeralda), Norman Kerry (Phoebus de Chateaupers), Kate Lester (Madame de Gondelaurier), Winifred Bryson (Fleur de Lys), Nigel De Brulier (Don Claudio), Brandon Hurst (Jehan), Ernest Torrence (Clopin), and Tully Marshall (King Louis XI) Directed by Wallace Worsley.

While this does not necessarily fall into the horror genre (being more of a romance/drama), it is often considered the first film in the "Universal Monsters" series, with a few of the films from that line already reviewed on this show (such as The Phantom of the Opera (#774), the Dracula films, the Frankenstein films, The Invisible Man (#069), The Old Dark House (#465), Murders in the Rue Morgue (#531), The Mummy (#632)...), adapted from the 1831 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, with certain liberties taken. I figured it was time to get to this film, which I had considered doing for quite some time, though I always seemed to push it back for other movies, until now. It is clear to see why Chaney was often called "The Man of a Thousand Faces", as he is spectacularly unrecognizable as the Hunchback, with the makeup being exquisitely grotesque, looking great for the time and even now. Miller and Kerry do fine in their romance scenes, having some sort of chemistry amidst the ultimate heartbreak. Hurst plays a decent villain, but the real star of the show is the grand scale of everything. There is a good deal of depth in the sets and costumes that create such a magnificent and true atmosphere, with different color hues in certain scenes that really stick out nicely. There isn't too much use of inter-titles, but the film manages to convey itself neatly without dialogue, like most great silent films do. The version I watched includes music compiled by Donald Hunsberger (with adaption and conduction by Robert Israel and his orchestra), which accompanies the movie excellently in capturing the movie's scale. The length of the movie depends on what copy you are seeing, ranging from 95 minutes to over two hours, with the version I watched being nearly around 110 minutes, and it paces itself well. Clearly I recommend this movie, and you can find it almost anywhere in part due to it being in the public domain.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

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