The Hunchback of Notre Dame

1939

Drama / Romance

85
IMDb Rating 7.8 10 10,160

Synopsis


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December 12, 2020

Cast

Charles Laughton as Rembrandt van Rijn
Eddie Bracken as Soldier at Festival of Fools
Maureen O'Hara as Katherine Gilhooley McLintock
Thomas Mitchell as Clopin
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.05 GB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
117 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.94 GB
1920×1080
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
117 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bkoganbing 10 / 10 / 10

Notre Dame's Celebrated Bell Ringer

Though the French have done many versions of Victor Hugo's celebrated classic, this version starring Charles Laughton has certainly stood the test of time and is the best known and loved in the English speaking world. Lon Chaney, Sr. did an acclaimed silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Laughton was following a great tradition. And he did it in the manner of Chaney, almost without dialog. Not that Hugo wrote too much dialog for Quasimodo in his story, but except for his time with Esmerelda in the tower after he rescues her, Laughton is almost speechless in the film. Of course his character in addition to being deformed is also deaf from the ringing of those cathedral bells. Quasimodo born deformed as he was, was left as an orphan on the steps of the Notre Dame cathedral in medieval Paris. Raised in the sheltered atmosphere of the church, he derives some joy in his duties as the bell ringer in the tower. His mentor is the brother of the archbishop played by Cedric Hardwicke and the archbishop is Walter Hampden. Quasimodo's life is useful, but without love. But Laughton is crushing out on Esmerelda the gypsy girl played by Maureen O'Hara in her American screen debut. Problem is that Hardwicke is also getting hot and bothered by her. Hardwicke's role is the second best acted in the film next to Laughton's. He's a man with shall we say some issues. He's purportedly committed to the church and it's celibacy requirements. But Dr. Freud wasn't around back in the day of Louis XI to tell us about sex drives. Hardwicke's desires mean only one thing, Esmerelda has to have bewitched him. When he kills Alan Marshal who is also interested in Maureen and looks like he's about to round third so to speak, the blame goes on Maureen. What I like about the story is how the lives of two very ordinary people, Quasimodo and Esmerelda, become the focal point for a whole lot of religious and political issues of the day. The church, the peasants, the just developing middle class, and the nobility all have an agenda as far as the Esmerelda murder case is going. The only agenda poor Quasimodo has is he's in love with her. Maureen O'Hara who was a discovery of Charles Laughton back in the United Kingdom was pushed by Laughton for the role of Esmerelda and traveled with him to America to play the part. She was grateful to him ever afterwards for any career she had and can't praise him enough for getting RKO to sign her. Harry Davenport probably plays the most benign Louis XI ever put on film. It sure is a far cry from Basil Rathbone in If I Were King or Robert Morley in Quentin Durward. He plays him like the kindly grandfather he usually plays on screen. Thomas Mitchell as Clopin the king of beggars and Edmond O'Brien as Gringoire the poet are two other significant roles. O'Brien gets his first substantial role on screen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and this was a banner year for Thomas Mitchell. In 1939 he was also in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone With the Wind and Stagecoach for which he won Best Supporting Actor. He could have though for any one of these films. When all is said and done though the film belongs to Charles Laughton who was the screen's best portrayer of tortured humanity. Even beneath all of Bud Westmore's grotesque make-up we can feel his anguish. He's not a stupid man Quasimodo, he knows how repulsive he is to most of the human race. He's childlike though, something like Peter Sellers in Being There, another character raised in a secluded atmosphere. To see Charles Laughton at the top of his game in my humble opinion one has to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Reviewed by claudio_carvalho 10 / 10 / 10

Heartbreaking Novel

In the end of Fifteenth Century, in the Feast of Fools in Paris, the deformed bell ringer Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) is elected the King of Fools. The gorgeous gypsy Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) does not have the necessary permit to stay in Paris and seeks sanctuary in the Notre Dame with the Archbishop of Paris. His brother, the Chief of Justice Frollo (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), has a repressed lust for the gypsy dancer and tries to force Esmeralda to go with him to the tower of the Cathedral. However she flees and Frollo orders Quasimodo to abduct the beautiful youngster. Quasimodo catches her but she is rescued by Captain Phoebus (Alan Marshal) and feels a crush on him. Quasimodo is arrested and sentenced to be whipped in the square of Notre Dame. When he begs for water, Esmeralda is the only person that gives water to him. Meanwhile Esmeralda helps the poet Gringoire (Edmond O'Brien) that was going to be hanged by the King of the Beggars, accepting to marry Gringoire to save him from the gallows. Esmeralda flirts with Captain Phoebus in a party and he is stabbed on his back by the jealous Frollo. Esmeralda takes the blame and is sentenced to the gallows. But Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda and brings her to the sanctuary of Notre Dame and expresses his love for the gypsy. Meanwhile a fight of classes between the nobles led by Frollo that want to hang Esmeralda, and the people, led by the beggars, gypsies and poets that want to protect the woman takes place. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is one of the cruelest romances of the literature and cinema history in a dark age in France. The author of "Les Misérables", Victor Hugo, writes another heartbreaking novel, describing the fight of classes in the French society in the end of the Middle Ages. In this version of this sad tale of injustice, Charles Laughton is awesome with a memorable performance and Maureen O'Hara is very beautiful in the role of the seductive gypsy. My vote is eight. Title (Brazil): "O Corcunda de Notre Dame" ("The Hunchback of Notre Dame")

Reviewed by brendangcarroll 10 / 10 / 10

A remarkable achievement

Considering that RKO was not renowned for epic film making, the production mounted for this version of Victor Hugo's classic story is surprisingly elaborate and effective. The Paris set is a beautiful creation and possibly the greatest work by Van Nest Polglase, who with the producer Pan Berman is chiefly remembered today for the elegant art-deco designs for the Astaire-Rogers musicals. The centrepiece of this remarkable set is the replica of Notre Dame cathedral which was only built to 50% height of the original; the towers above were added as an optical effect by use of a hanging miniature in some shots and by incorporating a glass painting in long shots. It's very convincing. Dieterle was the perfect choice to direct this story. A student (and later collaborator) of Max Reinhardt, he marshals the huge crowd scenes (no CGi here - those thousands of peasants are all real people) with aplomb and his mastery of expressionistic imagery informs every frame. Alfred Newman brought an intelligence to the musical score rare in Hollywood. His on screen credit "Musical adaptation and original composition by" reflects his skillful combining of original renaissance choral music by Tomas Luis de Victoria with his own work. He also uses a stirring Hallelujah chorus by uncredited Austrian Jewish émigré Ernst Toch (in Hollywood to escape the Nazis) for the memorable scene where Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda, reprised at the film's closing sequence as the camera pulls back from Notre Dame. It's a great pity that a better restoration cannot be achieved for this beautiful film than is currently available on DVD. While the source print is serviceable, it is often poorly defined and suffers from many scratches. Perhaps it is the only print now extant? I would also love to see the original trailer rather than the re-release version. While some may wish Basil Rathbone could have been released from contract at Universal to play Frollo, I think Cedric Hardwicke was ideal casting. As for Laughton, this may well be his signature role and a masterly example of great acting with hardly any dialogue at all. As Mr Sinatra once said - "You can wait around and hope - but you won't see the likes of this again"

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