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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best filming of the classic Hugo tale
Previously filmed in 1923 (with Lon Chaney as Quasimodo) this version is a vast improvement. Directed by German expatriate William Dieterle and featuring a superb performance from Charles Laughton as the lonely misshapen bellringer who falls in love with a beautiful gypsy girl. This was Laughton's second portrayl of a Hugo character (after playing Javert in 'Les...
Published on 13 Jun. 2002 by ChrissyJJ

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Incredible film-making, bravo for real classics.
What a truly lavish and gorgeous film this is, thematically it pulls the emotions in different directions, and as a story it's as sharp as a tack. Boasting a quite incredible performance from Charles Laughton as the tragic bell ringer Quasimodo (no nomination Academy, are you flipping sure?), and sets that are simply out of this world, this film to me defines classic...
Published 8 months ago by Spike Owen


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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best filming of the classic Hugo tale, 13 Jun. 2002
By 
Previously filmed in 1923 (with Lon Chaney as Quasimodo) this version is a vast improvement. Directed by German expatriate William Dieterle and featuring a superb performance from Charles Laughton as the lonely misshapen bellringer who falls in love with a beautiful gypsy girl. This was Laughton's second portrayl of a Hugo character (after playing Javert in 'Les Miserables' in 1935) and it became one of his most famous roles; overcoming the discomfort of the make up and the heat (it was filmed during the hot September of 1939) and pulling off a wonderful charectarisation, managing to convey Quasimodo's kindness and beauty of character. He is matched by a great cast - Cedric Hardwicke as the corrupt Frollo, Thomas Mitchell as the rebellious Clopin and Harry Davenport as the kindly old King while the nineteen year old Maureen O'Hara is breathtaking in her Hollywood debut as Esmerelda. Dieterle's direction brings genuine mood and atmosphere to the film and is matched by the tremendous sets (a mock up Notre Dame was built in the San Fernado Valley). The film cost more than $2 million and was a huge success - both critically and financially.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest performances in movie history., 9 Jun. 2007
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
The dramatic tool of having someone in love with another who will never return their feelings has been used extensively in cinema .I am willing to bet that it's never been done better or with more emotional resonance than the 1939 version of Victor Hugo's novel set in 15th century France.

This is more of a straight up love story than the previous 1923 silent version starring Lon Chaney with the hapless disfigured bell ringer Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) hopelessly in love/lust with the stunningly beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) who naturally doesn't reciprocate .The film though draws parallels between 15th century France and the 20th century . Claude Frollo( Cedric Hardwicke ) the films villain is not only a sexually repressed religious hypocrite , and they ,ve always been in short supply , but advocates the destruction of the printing press so the proles will never be able to think for themselves and the wholesale destruction of the gypsies so the comparisons with Hitler are clear.

Many of the sub-plots of Hugo's, novel however have been dispensed with so director William Dieterle can concentrate primarily on the relationship between Quasimodo and Esmeralda though he does use the poet Gringoire ( Edmond O'Brien) as an agit-prop to further highlight the difference between the haves and the have- not's. The movie catches the tumultuous sweep of events very well while retaining the intimacy of the characters motivations and stories.

The sets of medieval Paris are truly awesome , particularly Notre Dame Cathedral itself ( which cost an at the time astonishing $250,000) and the score by Alfred Newman is excellently restrained. The script is literate -Quasimodo asks of a gargoyle -"why was I not made of stone like thee?" but has moments of pithy brilliance but what really elevates this movie is the performance of Laughton which unbelievably did not even earn him an Oscar nomination. Though the movie did earn two nominations for score and sound the fact that Laughton radiating the despair and desire of the hunchback through his makeup, failed to be recognised is one of the academy's truly glaring omission's . It's a truly staggering performance , one of the greatest in cinema history , and even now is not really given the recognition it deserves.

It's all the more powerful given that the makeup , which took two and a half hours to apply wasn't really that great , giving the character a slightly false almost cartoon like look. That Laughton was able to overcome this and palpably invest his character with such pathos and soiled dignity is remarkable .His performance still resounds today because what this film deals with ,is as eternal as man kind. The love of one for another particularly when it is,nt reciprocated , and the nobility and splendour of a persons nature , despite their grotesque visage is always likely to appeal to us. This film, along with David Lynch,s brilliant "Elephant Man" as I said before, does it better than any other.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hunchback of notre dame, 27 Aug. 2011
By 
Anne Anderson "sloopy" (aberdeenshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre Dame [DVD] (DVD)
Bought for my brother who has been tryin to find a copy for ages.I watched it to make sure it was ok & it took me back 40yrs when i first saw it.Still a great classic movie so much so that i will be ordering another copy for myself & another for 3 of my friends.Excellent film about power,love & humiliation.Buy it,you wont regret it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Incredible film-making, bravo for real classics., 22 Aug. 2014
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre Dame [DVD] (DVD)
What a truly lavish and gorgeous film this is, thematically it pulls the emotions in different directions, and as a story it's as sharp as a tack. Boasting a quite incredible performance from Charles Laughton as the tragic bell ringer Quasimodo (no nomination Academy, are you flipping sure?), and sets that are simply out of this world, this film to me defines classic cinema.

Into the mix we get a radiant Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda who lights up the screen in every scene she is in, it's a very special performance in view of it being her first lead US turn. However, really the film's triumph lies with its script, a very aware piece of writing encompassing political goings on and the corruption of the church set around the hunchback's tragic love. The make up of Laughton leaves an indelible image when brought into focus with the great detail of the surroundings, and the score is mightily appropriate.

All in all this film cost 2 Million Dollars for RKO Studios, one of their most expensive outlays, but they were rewarded in spades as the film was a monster success and here in the modern day age of cinema the film still stands up as a benchmark for great movie making. 9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest films ever made, 15 May 2012
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This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre Dame [DVD] (DVD)
It's inexplicably difficult to find a copy of this classic film, but thankfully here it is. On the negative side, the cartoonish cover looks like it would be more suitable for a pulp-fiction novel, and the cast biographies in the extras are in Korean (God only knows why - there's both Korean and English subtitles available as well), but it seems churlish to quibble over such insignificant details considering the trouble you'll have trying to find this on DVD elsewhere. The film itself, for those who haven't seen it, is quite simply a masterpiece of cinema. Almost every single frame could be a work of art in itself, but still it's thrilling entertainment, eliciting just about every possible emotion from the viewer in two hours. It's a shame that TV companies seem to be getting more shy of broadcasting black & white films, so most people have probably only seen the Disney version. The DVD is All-Region, NTSC. 4:3 Aspect.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughton is the best!, 9 Aug. 2004
By 
F. V. L. Buliciri (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed watching the 1930's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame based on the famous book by Victor Hugo. I felt myself moved and saddened by Charles Laughton's portrayal of the hunchback Quasimodo who only wanted people to love and like him as a person and not jeer at him or despise as he was accustomed to. Laughton gives an excellent portrayal of Quasimodo he portrays this tragic figure with such empathy and depth you are mesmerised by Quasimodo and do not regard him otherwise as some grotesque caricature of a freak.Maureen O'Hara provides good support as the beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda only wanting justice for her race who were subjected to persecution and bigotry that time in France. Cedric Hardwicke as the villainous Frollo is brilliant. I liked this film too because on another level it looks at our treatment of outcasts in society such as the hunchbacked Quasimodo and the gypsies too and it is just as relevant today especially as there is more awareness for minorites such as these and the importance to bring about changes in the law to cater for their basic human rights. I've seen several versions of this film with Anthony Hopkins and Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo no one however can beat the great Charles Laughton!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tragic love story of Quasimodo and the Gypsy Girl, 22 Nov. 2002
By A Customer
Certainly the 1939 film version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is more of a love story than the classic silent film starring Lon Chaney. Victor Hugo's novel is turned in a very complex love story, with Esmeralda (the fetching Maureen O'Hara in her first big role), the gypsy girl catching the eye of not only Quasimodo (Charles Laughton), but Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke), the Chief Justice. The fact that the girl is married is of little concern. I have always had problems with the Hunchback's make-up, specifically the fake eye on the disfigured face, but there is no doubting the strength of Laughton's performance. O'Hara pretty much has to stand around and look beautiful while those who are enthralled with her play out their deadly little games. Forget about the dense Freudian overtones and just focus on the metaphor of the young man who falls in love with someone he can never, ever have.
Most romantic line(s): (1) "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" (2) 'Why was I not made of stone--like thee?"
Two Tear-Jerking Scenes: (1) When Esmeralda gives Quasimodo water upon the wheel and (2) when Quasimodo watches the lovers together. Okay, maybe these are more like heavy sniffling scenes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just a great classic!, 9 April 2011
By 
A. W. Wilson - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Why hasn't this film been on TV for so long? Why isnn't it available on the High street in the U/K? To my mind this film is one of those great classics that one tends to forget about, until you see it again and realise just how well it stands the test of time. Other reviewers have gone into the plot, and other details suffice for me to say Laughton is just superb, moving and believable. O'Hara is beautiful in her H'Wood debut, the sets are magnificent, and ...I'll stop here. The picture is good given the age (4.3), but I do have a quibble. The sound levels vary enormously. Thundering music requiring instant access to the remote, and dialogue which requires the sound up again. Bit of a nuisance in a 117' film. Otherwise 100% recomended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Hollywood's greatest, 12 May 2008
This film is great on all levels - the performances of course, especially a very young Maureen O'Hara before the studios removed the naturalness, the music, the sets - but what really stands out is the cinematography and mise en scene: you feel that this is what medieval Paris was really like. Scenes such as the one where Quasimodo brings a caged bird to Esmeralda, or when he leaps on to the giant bell - "she made me deaf" - have tremendous emotional power. This movie should be available for Region 2, along with other greats of the 30s such as the Lubitsch films.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Over 70 years old and timeless, 6 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre Dame [DVD] (DVD)
One of my favourite films of all time, for a number of reasons.

First, the direction by William Dieterle which is superb. Next, the music by Alfred Newman is great; he very cleverly mixes the ecclesiastical music of medieval France with his own to bring a thrilling score to the film. And lastly, the actors: Charles Laughton was not always my favourite actor, but he was in this. He's supported by Maureen O'Hara, cleverly under-playing the gypsy girl, Esmeralda and Sir Cedric Hardwick as the sexually repressed, murdering Frollo who ruthlessly stamps down on anything he considers to be reformative.

The scene in which Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda - falsely accused of murder - is terrific; the tension builds as the crowd kneels outside Notre Dame where her execution is due to take place - and then as Quasimodo miraculously snatches her to safety there's Newman's tremendous chorus of `Hallelujah' and general rejoicing from the multitude although rather less so from the deeply unpleasant Frollo.

And in the closing sequence as Esmeralda finds happiness, the pitiful Quasimodo beseeches the Notre Dame gargoyle, `Why was I not made of stone, like thee?"

Not a dry eye in the house - well, not in my house, where I'm known to be a serial blubber!

Rush out and buy this timeless DVD - you won't be sorry.
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