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The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Actors: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O'Brien
Director: William Dieterle
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Kids & Family
NR     1998     1hr 56min

The story of Quasimodo, the hunchback bellringer of the Notre Dame cathedral in 15th century Paris, who rescues a gypsy girl from the evil intentions of her guardian. — Genre: Horror — Rating: NR — Release Date: 1-JAN-2002 — M...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O'Brien
Director: William Dieterle
Creators: Joseph H. August, Robert Wise, William Hamilton, Pandro S. Berman, Bruno Frank, Sonya Levien, Victor Hugo
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Kids & Family
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Horror, 7-9 Years, 10-12 Years, Adapted from Books, Classics, Family Films
Studio: Turner Home Ent
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/06/1998
Original Release Date: 12/31/1939
Theatrical Release Date: 12/31/1939
Release Year: 1998
Run Time: 1hr 56min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

Timeless, In Every Dimension
Paul Frandano | Reston, Va. USA | 11/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Even granting my utter lack of objectivity in evaluating this Hunchback after knowing it for 45 years (during which I must have seen it close to 50 times, including two viewings in the past two weeks), it remains brilliant in every respect. Laughton's performance remains unmatched and the gold standard for Quasimodo interpreters. The 19-year-old Maureen O'Hara is as fresh and lovely and humane as in my earliest recollections. Sir Cedric Hardwick (an apt handle for the Jean Frollo character, no?) is a perfect, pinched-nostril'd villain. RKO's production values are second to none, and Joseph August's photography (coupled to Dieterle's film sensibility and scene framing, so touched by German cinematic impressionism) is absolute perfection. So too is the heralded Alfred Newman score, perhaps the finest marriage of musical phrase to filmed sequence to that point in film history--swellingly Wagnerian at emotional highpoints, but lean, linear, and distinctly 15th-16th century when period atmosphere is called for (listen for Tielmann Susato and other renaissance masters, skillfully woven in). But, in the end, it's Laughton and Paris and the brilliantly recreated cathedral that stand at the picture's center. Unspeakably beautiful and, in the end, unbearably heartbreaking.The DVD transfer, however, is something of a disappointment--only three stars for its quality, particularly in the first reel. But don't get me wrong--it's more than simply "watchable" and looks as good as anything else from the period you you might run across on TCM; it improves from the picture's middle third on, and the sound is fine. The DVD extras are extremely valuable for recounting many production details; indeed, what I had always thought to be spectacularly wrought matte shots were, I learned in the included production documentary, a 5-acre recreation of 15th century Paris, designed from old woodcuts and drawings. (The otherwise fine documentary sadly omits all mention of cinematographer August, who shot a number of pictures--Gunga Din, They Were Expendable, The Informer, The Devil and Daniel Webster--that are as often remembered for their distinctive "look" and as for their "film classic" status.) And the Maureen O'Hara interview, for those of us who grew up smitten with her, is a sheer delight--more than a half-century later and as flashing and beautiful as ever. Film buffs make a big to-do over 1939 as "Hollywood's Greatest Year." Everyone else will agree once they get a load of the filmography of 1939 that's included here as an extra. It's just a list, but what a list.Permesso...a biographical aside: Dieterle's Hunchback, which holds a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons, but especially because it led directly to twin additions: to books, and to movies. As a little boy, my love for this story story naturally led me to read my first adult "chapter book"--a 35 cent Bantam translation of the Hugo novel. I've been book-addicted ever since, transposing my library browsing to the adult stacks and leapfrogging the entire body of classic juvenile literature that I eventually wound up reading to my own children. And movie-addicted, too--also as a boy, I hunted down the Lon Chaney Hunchback in a NYC repertory film house, saw the (inferior) Tony Quinn version in the theater, and since have seen, I suppose, every subsequent remake. And I also saw almost all of those wonderful 1939 pictures, mostly on Million Dollar Movie, the old NY WOR program that showed a movie about 16 times a week (twice a week day and three times a day on weekends).Generally, a movie held as dearly in memory as I have held this simply cannot doesn't sustain its recalled impact on re-viewing--it may seem dated, or trite, or visually uncompelling, emotionally vapid, saccharine, etc., to a contemporary film lover. But the Dieterle/Laughton Hunchback remains an indispensable film, here presented in an outstanding package, and at a bargain price."
Laughton's "Hunchback" the overlooked film CLASSIC of 1939
forrie | Nashua, NH United States | 03/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"That's right! 1939 is considered the greatest year of Hollywood films. Gone With The Wind (color), The Wizard of Oz (color), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights and The Hunchback of Notre Dame to name a few.With this competition and a horror theme "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was lost in the shuffle.In summary this masterful movie has been digitally restored and placed on DVD for superior picture & sound. Victor Hugo's "Hunchback" was perfectly cast with Charles Laughton as Quasimodo the deaf & disfigured bell ringer of Notre Dame. The beautiful Maureen O'Hara (US debut at 19)as the gypsy girl, Esmeralda. The villian Frollo (the Chief Justice of Paris) played expertly by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. The story, the sets and castings chemistry rival any of the before mentioned films of 1939.To appreciate Hollywood's Golden Age and the acting talent which was at its Paramount watch and enjoy this greatest film Classic of Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)"."
A great actor for fundamental questions
Jacques COULARDEAU | OLLIERGUES France | 03/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is the most popular piece of French literary folklore by Victor Hugo. The film is a fair adaptation of the novel. The core of it is a love story between a gipsy girl Esmeralda and a poet Gringoire. But it becomes intricate because this gipsy girl causes love in many hearts. First of all in the captain of the guard, Phoebus, then in the bellringer of Notre Dame Quasimodo, and most of all in the « prime minister » of Louis XI, King of France. This love story will get to a happy ending but due to causes and thanks to means that go beyond the simple love story. For one it is the invention of the printing press that changes many things. It enables Gringoire to publish a pamphlet that causes the people of Paris to intervene in a decision that the king is supposed to take, that the king is lobbied to take by the nobility in order to end the sanctuary right French churches had in those days. The people will support this sanctuary right and win : the king will listen to public opinion. The question is essential because this printing press brings a new circulation of information and hence a new power to the people. The second important question is that of justice which should be decided by common sense and not by torture or ordeals. Justice will be met in the end, but after a very tortuous process. Finally the question of using force to impose one's will, be it the force of the army for the nobles or the force of violence for the people is severely criticized as ineffective. It goes against common sense and common sense means information. This also means trust : to trust the common sense of the people and the common sense of the king. The film has another great interest in the acting of Charles Laughton who performs marvelously in his role of Quasimodo, a deaf hunchback who is absolutely ugly but has a heart of pure gold.Dr Jacques COULARDEAU"
Laughton is Amazing | Atlanta, GA | 11/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Charles Laughton is one of the great actors of all time. Watching this version of Vitor Hugo's novel it is not hard to see why. Laughton looks like he was born to play Quasimodo, the deaf and disfigured bell keeper of Notre Dome Cathedral. Wearing heavy face make up and a body suit, Laughton literally transformed himself to play the part. This novel has been adapted several times for the screen , but this is the best one. The performances are on the whole excellent. Particularly Cedric Hardwicke as the cold Chief Justice of Paris. Maureen O'Hara also gives a strong performance as Esmeralda. The direction of William Dieterle is very good, although he concentates a little too much on the subplots at times. On the whole this is an excellent film, that despite it's age, hardly seems dated. The story is a timeless classic and so is this film. Watch it just for Laughton's performance."