Kevin Killian | San Francisco, CA United States | 10/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The other versions are excellent as well, including Lon Chaney's silent epic; Charles Laughton saving Maureen O'Hara from burning Hollywood; and Demi Moore in her greatest performance in the Disney musical. But for my money, this is the version to buy and cherish. Filmed in France for Frenchmen, and secondarily for the international market, HUNCHBACK was criticized at home for failure to cast French actors in either of the leading roles. It's not as if France in 1956-7 didn't have dozens of great stars, and wouldn't you have enjoyed seeing a version of this Victor Hugo tale with, say, Jean Gabin as Quasimodo, and Brigitte Bardot as Esmeralda? Instead the producers went elsewhere, arguing that in the novel, of course, Esmeralda's "foreignness" was an essential part of the tale, and the same for Quasimodo. Gabin was, indeed, a very real possibility, for he was director Jean Delannoy's Inspector Maigret in several films and the two clicked together on a personal level as well.
Thus we have Anthony Quinn as the tortured church servant, and Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda. She plays up the Gypsy aspect quite a bit, and in general cavorts like she's Demi Moore trying to have a good time, but something of her fate seems to be hanging over her handsome, tousled head, and the shadow of the gargoyles is like the guillotine--a factor of doom. Lollobrigida had just finished filming TRAPEZE and was given only four days' holiday before reporting to Paris for the arduous, twelve-week NOTRE DAME DE PARIS shoot. (Notice how buff her arms are in those sleeveless peasant blouses, that's a holdover from her training for TRAPEZE.)
Lovers of French film will rejoice to see Roger Blin in s smallish part: Blin starred in everything from Cocteau's ORPHEUS to Clouzot's LE CORBEAU, and in NOTRE DAME DE PARIS he's very stylish, though badly dubbed into English.
Best of all is the lustrous color photography! Because this was a production partially financed by the French government, approved by Minister of Culture Andre Malraux, the production was allowed to film directly in the Cathedral itself, so every time you see an interior shot, or so it is said, you are peering into the mysterious Notre Dame itself. The long shots of Quasimodo pouring molten oil over the battlements were recreated largely in the studio. Watch for the famous bateaux-mouches parading lazily up the Seine, which has never looked more beuatiful. This film was nominated for a "Cesar," the Oscar of France, but somehow lost to a smaller product. The day of the "new wave" was at hand and it wouldn't be long before the names of the moment would be Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, Chris Marker, and Francois Truffaut. When the bells ring in the ancient cathedral, they're ringing out the end of an era, and ringing in a new dawn for French film."
Surprisingly faithful, surprisingly good
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 10/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Strangely, there has never been a bad film of Victor Hugo's classic tale, and while this is indeed less successful than Laughton, Chaney or Disney's versions, this French effort is still a surprisingly good and much under-rated film. To get the most out of it, you have to bear in mind that Hugo did not write a horror story but a tale of unrequited love and anguish. There is little of the Gothic on show here; rather, everyone is trapped by a desire for what they are denied. This is much more 'Notre Dame de Paris' (the novel's actual title) than 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame': Quasimodo probably gets less screen time here than in any of the other films, only dominating the drama in the last third. Instead, as with Hugo, it uses the cathedral of Notre Dame as the thread that binds all social stratas - Kings and beggars, thieves and soldiers, gypsies and alchemists, playwrights and aristocrats - giving a vivid portrait of a time and place half imagined, half real.Quinn is more of a brute than we're used to seeing in our Quasimodos: unlike Laughton, he's no poetic soul trapped in a broken body but an animal who is given an inkling of what it means to be human. Lollabrigida fares better than usual as Esmerelda, and if their relationship is never moving, the ending, for once taken directly from the novel, is genuinely touching.There are problems: the dubbing is at times irritating (and there is no French-language option on the disc), while Jean Danet is quite the most embarrassing Phoebus imaginable, stilted, impossibly smug and just plain odd-looking. Some key scenes are poorly staged, most notably Quasimodo's rescue of Esmerelda, while the hunchback is not given a strong entrance. But, if you're willing to take a chance and watch it with an open mind, the pleasant surprises outweigh them. While not the most lavish version, the scale and colour of the film, particularly in scenes such as the Court of Miracles, gives us a sense of a world around these characters, the addition of CinemaScope and some impressive sets helping to broaden the scale. Delannoy's direction is occasionally imaginative, with a good eye for the Scope frame. The script (co-written by 'Les Enfants du Paradis' Jacques Prevert) is often witty and doesn't shy from the darker tragic tone of the novel. Georges Auric's score, though ill-served by the original sound recording, is also a fine effort.The transfer is good, with only a few edge enhancement problems, although it seems very slightly cropped in some shots, and the failings of the early CinemaScope lenses do result in an occasional loss of detail in some shots. The DVD even includes one brief torture sequence that has long been cut from many prints, as well as the original theatrical trailer.Kept out of distribution for years (Disney bought the rights around the time they were working on their version and shelved it), the film has not been able to gain much of a reputation. Indeed, it continues to get short shrift from many critics - 'Time Out's film guide is particularly hostile. But, as they say in Britain, 'Time Out hated it, so it must be good.' And it is - not great, but certainly pretty good."
More like the "Stoopedback" of Notre Dame
Hazen B Markoe | St. Paul, MN United States | 12/07/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"While this version of Victor Hugo's novel is more true to the tragic story than most, this version suffers from lackluster performances, slow pacing and some awkward dubbing. Anthony Quinn's performance in the title role suggests a cheap thug rather than the beautiful soul trapped in a hideous body. Gina Lollobrigida is full of sex appeal as the ill-fated gypsy dancer, Esmeralda, but she comes across like too much the tart, and not the innocent of the novel. While the photography is lovely, this film suffers in comparision to the other major versions of this classic tale. I would recommend this film only if you want to compare it with the other versions. Otherwise, see any of those instead."
James H. Gonzales | Belmont, CA USA | 08/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first version of the movie and in my humble opinion, the best. I say this for one reason and one reason only, and that is that its the only version that ends the way the novel does. Without spoiling it I'll just say that its tragic yet the most romantic imaginable!!"
Anthony Quinn, in full monster regalia, remains in the memor
Roberto Frangie | Leon, Gto. Mexico | 01/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Notre Dame De Paris,' set in medieval Paris in the year 1482, tells the moving story of a beautiful gypsy dancer and a grateful hunchback who adores her...
Quinn's distinctive interpretation of the ward of the cathedral in the sumptuous, wide-screen, full-color version of the Victor Hugo successful historical novel, is full of vitality as well as pity...
Despite the spectacular appearance of Gina Lollobrigida, top-billed as Esmeralda, it is Quinn in full monster regalia who remains in the memory, not many lengths behind Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton...
The motion picture is focused on the events leading to Esmeralda's trial for witchcraft and the stabbing of her noble lover, the cavalier of King Louis XI... Esmeralda is accused of the crime, tortured and sentenced to death... When she is about to be hanged, Quasimodo pushes the hangman aside, sweeps her into his arms, and carries her into the sanctuary of Notre Dame...
Much of the rich atmosphere so vividly described in the Hugo irresistible tale - the happy Festival of the Fools, the Court of Miracles, the cathedral and its role as the center of medieval Paris, the storming of Notre Dame - provide the spectacle a timeless message of lust, jealousy, prejudice, hate, compassion and love...
Quasimodo is just 'one long, ugly face from his head to his toes,' but in his distorted body, there is lot of humanity, kindness, and gratitude... Quasimodo lives high in the church towers... We see him exceptionally agile, showing no fear for its height, climbing down its facade, embracing its huge bell, telling Esmeralda in halting words that she is safe within the walls of the cathedral... That day, Quasimodo leaps onto 'Big Louise' and rides his beloved huge bell back and forth sending its mighty sound throughout Paris for his beloved Esmeralda...
Esmeralda is the sensuous gypsy girl, who ascends the pillory to quench Quasimodo's thirst... She is fond of dancing, noise and open air... She is in love with one man whom she calls the 'bright sun.'
Master Frollo (Alain Cuny) is the man in black who inspires respect and fear... He is the haunted Archdeacon of Notre Dame, an expert on witchcraft... It is said that he is the greatest magician of all France, but magic is merely illusion... Frollo is completely taken with Esmeralda's beauty... He is the king's judge who lies about the ravishing temptress who follows him in his dreams... His thoughts are like Quasimodo's face, ugly! ('We are brothers.. your face and my soul..')
Phoebus (Jean Danet) is vain, arrogant, and opportunistic... To him, the Gypsy girl is a sexual object to be cynically manipulated, used and rejected... The only love which the Captain of the King's Archers recognizes is narcissism... His tendency to erotic self-love and his excessive self-admiration...
Robert Hirsch is the harmless poet - educated under the patronage of Master Frollo - who breaks the laws of the kingdom of thieves and beggars, and has one chance to live...
'Notre Dame De Paris' shows us that human nature always struggles between two opposing forces: The light and the darkness, the grotesque and the beautiful, love and hate, hope and despair...