Lon Chaney, the man of a thousand faces, was best known for playing Quasimodo and the Phantom of the Opera. But the former role was clearly the most ambitious of his illustrious career, full of such longing and anguish. I... more »t's as though his entire being was consumed by this ugly outcast with a heart as big and beautiful as Notre Dame itself. And the makeup is still astonishing. The rest of this unrequited love story is pretty effective as well, with the re-creation of medieval Paris a standout for its lavishness. Like all great silent films, it delivers a poetry of life that is abstract and tangible at the same time. --Bill Desowitz« less
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 10/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...although this new Image release which replaces their 1999 edition is likely the best that we'll see until someone can afford to do a full scale restoration. David Shepard and Film Preservation Associates are to be commended for making this look as good as they have considering the limited funds they have to work with (Shepard once said that Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay Productions spend on one reel what he spends on an entire film) and the source material which appears to be 16mm. There is no significant new footage here but the film has been speed corrected which accounts for the longer running time. The print seems to be the same as the 1999 release with lots of scratches throughout but the image is sharper and the toning of certain scenes is better.
Aside from the condition of the print what really keeps this from being the "Ultimate Edition" is the score by Donald Hunsberger. Hunsberger is a fine conductor (check out his Eastman Wind Ensemble recordings) but the music he compiled is too lighthearted overall and not sombre or medieval enough to enhance what's going on during the movie especially toward the end (the compiled score used for the 1999 version was far more appropriate). A darker score like the one Ennio Morricone did for the 1912 RICHARD III would help to undercut the melodramatic elements of the story and some of the performances. Once again a score can make or break a silent film.
Lon Chaney remains a marvel as Quasimodo, fully inhabiting the character beneath the makeup and the natural speed transfer restores his performance to what it should be. The medieval sets and vast army of extras also continue to inspire awe 80+ years later. The disc comes with program reproductions, 3-D glasses for old stills, and commentary from Chaney scholar Michael F. Blake. So fans of HUNCHBACK and Chaney rush out and be sure to get this edition for your DVD collection. I just wish that someday someone with unlimited funds can really produce the ultimate edition (ala METROPOLIS, BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) that this classic deserves."
This IS The Expanded Restoration That Was on TCM
G. Ratcheson | Washington | 07/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Good: By a long shot, this is the most clear print EVER; for the first time the actor's facial expressions are clearly visible. They've added over 20 minutes from any previous edition
Bad: No scratch removal.I assume they didn't have the funding for it; but as this is such an important piece of American history, it should have been done right. At least in the future, someone can load this dvd into a professional pc with scratch removal software & fix it right."
Good Lon Chaney silent film.
J. Connor | Palm Desert, CA United States | 07/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame is quite a good silent film, starring the famous Lon Chaney Sr. as the eccentric and tortured Quasimodo. The story slightly follows Victor Hugo's novel, and the acting is fine for this type of genre. The story flows well, though the movie is rather overlong for 1925. There are two DVD's and several VHS versions of the film sold on the market. The two DVD versions differ in quality. I own the earlier, unrestored release by Alpha Video. This edition is the one NOT to purchase. The picture quality is grainy and snowy. The screen is also difficult to see at times, and the picture is so bright that you are looking at a white screen. True, the film is over 75 years old, but it deserves a better restoration. The more recent DVD, released by Republic Pictures, has been restored and cleaned up. The Alpha DVD price is also cheaper. To appreciate the film and Lon Chaney in full glory, purchase the restored Republic DVD and nothing else. P.S. Ignore the retarded Disney version."
Great Film, Sub-Standard Film Elments
G. Ratcheson | 11/13/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I know, I know. "The film's nearly 80 years old"; "what did I expect??"; "there's only so much you can do to restore old films..." I've heard it all, and this transfer from Image still gets only 3 stars. Why? Because I've seen better transfer elements on VHS, for crying out loud, elements that possessed far better image clarity than we're given on this disc. In several areas, the image is nearly washed out, leaving only tiny black pixels in its stead. Clearly, this is a problem with the version that Image has chosen for the transfer, and is not a problem that is attributable to the age of the picture. Having said that, however, it should be noted that there are no truly superb prints of this silent "Hunchback," and that the picture is worth spending a few hundred thousand-or a million or two-bucks to restore, if not with an entirely new negative, then at least via digital means. It is a fine rendition (I won't argue the point of whether Laughton's fine portrayal is 'better'...this is in the eye of the beholder) of Hugo's novel, and Lon Chaney's characterization is one of the most startling ever put on film. Mr. Chaney's use of his hands conveys subtleties that his face does not, providing us with one of the silent silver screen's most moving performances. He is Quasimodo, the hunchback, just as he was Erik, the Phantom, Blizzard, the underworld mastermind, and the tough sergeant in "Tell It To The Marines." If you're looking for a film with a thrilling story that is punctuated by pathos, and the kind of catharsis that can only come from witnessing the triumph of love and the human spirit, there is no better viewing than the 1923 "Hunchback of Notre Dame." Just be ready for the inevitable "who dragged this print through the Liquid Paper factory" question you'll be asking yourself when you view this DVD. PLEASE, Image, or Criterion--do something to rescue this classic movie so that my grandchildren can enjoy it, too."
Great classic, so-so on the "ultimate" part
Winona Patterson | Ohio, USA | 10/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'd have to agree with the already-published reviews here that the quality of the print, although the best I've seen for this film, leaves something to be desired, mainly due to the large amount of scratches in some scenes. But the film itself and the special features are what indeed makes this "ultimate", especially the always thorough and informative content from Chaney scholar Michael F. Blake. His audio commentary is insightful, and the accompanying print essay is great as well. The 3-D stills are pretty cool, and I love the reproduction of the original theatrical program. Print quality aside, this is a great addition to anyone's silent film collection."