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Man Who Laughs

Mary Philbin , Conrad Veidt , Paul Leni    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Visual Eloquence April 2 2004
Format:DVD
Baes on Victor Hugo's 1869 novel, "The Man Who Laughs" is the morbid tale of Gwynplaine, an English clown doomed to a life adorned with a perpetual grin. His surgical smile was implanted on him by devilish gypsies. Gwynplaine is raised beside lovely Dea, whom we rescued as a baby. Dea is blind and can see only the beauty of his soul. As a complication, the sexy Duchess Josiana is attracted to, and repelled by Gwynplaine, all at the same time. A sensual, robust epic, "The Man Who Laughs" involves court intrigue, secret scandals, and a simple boy's enduring true love. Conrad Veidt played the lead in 1919's "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Lured to America in 1926 by actor John Barrymore, Veidt co-starred with him in the classic "Beloved Rogue". Then Universal's Carl Laemmle tapped him for the lead in "The Man Who Laughs". Years later, in 1941, Veidt played Major Strasser in "Casablanca". Just 6 months after it's release, Conrad Veidt died of a heart attack playing golf(8th hole) in Los Angeles, Calif.. The director of "The Man Who Laughs" was also a German import. Paul Leni's production of "Cat and the Canary" installed him as Universal's reigning terror-director. In Leni's "The Man Who Laughs", light is not so important as shadow. Backgrounds unveil misty fog and swirling smoke. Paul Leni finished one more film before an infected, ulcerated tooth caused his early death from blood poisoning. Kino's exceptional DVD of "The Man Who Laughs" represents the successful American-Italian joint restoration of the 75-year-old movie. Slowed by a creaky second-half, "The Man Who Laughs" bogs down in a final melodramatic chase. But don't misunderstand. Silent horror-film fans will relish Leni's macabre art design and relentless animal passion. Just 3 years later, Universal once again photographed a tall, mysterious black-caped stranger; strolling European streets through a dark, swirling fog. This time they called it "Dracula".
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual and Memorable Film Jan. 14 2004
Format:VHS Tape
"The Man Who Laughs" was made to capitalize on the success of "The Phantom of the Opera," made three years before. Mary Philbin, the object of the Phantom's love, stars in this film as Dea, a bind orphan who is loved by the title character played by Conrad Veidt. She would marry Veidt but he is reluctant thinking that if she knew what he looked like she would laugh at him. Although this film was made by Universal it has the feel of the films made in Germany during the silent era and is directed by Paul Leni.
The story is set in 17th century England. King James II condemns the father of the title character to the Iron Maiden and his son, Gwynplaine, is horribly disfigured by a band of gypsies so that his face has a permanent grin. Conrad Veidt plays Gwynplaine. "The Man Who Laughs" is a sympathetic character who finds happiness of a kind in a traveling show as a clown where people seeing him find they laugh uncontrollably. Little do they know that his smile is permanent! Gwynplaine is seen by a jaded Duchess (seductively played by Olga Baclanova) who takes a bizarre interest in him until the secret of his identity is revealed.
The film has the original soundtrack that includes music, sound effects and some voices. This film was made after "The Jazz Singer" so its influence is evident. Conrad Veidt is outstanding in the title role. He must literally act with his eyes and he conveys the emotions of his character with great expression. One must admire Conrad Veidt for his superb acting abilities. His silent film performances in the "Cabinet of Dr Caligari" and "Waxworks" are particularly excellent but he also turned in great performances in smaller roles, such as King Louis XI in "The Beloved Rogue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rediscovering a Universal 'Super-Jewel' Dec 31 2003
Format:DVD
My previous exposure to Paul Leni's 'The Man Who Laughs' probably coincides with the experience of many others: the knowledge that the central figure was the inspiration for Bob Kane's villain The Joker and a number of atomspheric stills printed time and again in magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland. When I learned that Kino would be releasing this on dvd I eagerly awaited viewing it. What I expected was a good film and an interesting addition to the Universal's horror classics. What I received far surpassed my highest expectations. This is a masterful piece of cinematic art. Every aspect from camera work and set design to screen performance (the scenes with Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin are magical) secure this film a seat alongside other great silent films such as Sunrise or Metropolis. From the opening scenes in the royal boudoir and secret torture chambers I was captivated. Each minute brought new characters, some beautifully sad, some contemptibly corrupt, but always fascinating, their expressions superbly captured by the silent camera. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MAN WHO LAUGHS is moving, masterful. Oct. 13 2003
Format:DVD
Long thought to be a "lost" film of the silent film era, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS gets a wonderful restoration in this Kino Video DVD. Based on a minor Victor Hugo novel, the film tells the story of Gwynplaine, a nobleman who, as a child, has a horrible grin carved on to his face and is forced to work as a strolling player. Only the beautiful Dea, the blind girl he rescued when both were children, sees him as the kind soul he really is. Both stylistic and fast paced, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS grabs your attention with it's stunning visuals and moving performances. As the tragic Gwynplaine, Conrad Veidt turns in a heart rending performance. This is all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that Veidt could only act with his eyes due to the dental appliances that forced his face into a ghastly grin. Veidt's make-up made such a strong impression that his Gwynplaine would eventually become immortalized in popular culture as the villainous Joker in the Batman comics. Mary Philbin is touching the blind Dea. As a spoiled Duchess who is both drawn and repulsed by Gwynplaine, Olga Baclanova (who looks amazingly like Madonna in this flick) brings a strong sexual tension to her role. As the evil jester-adviser who is responsible for our hero's plight, Brandon Hurst successfully embodies a perverse mix of humor and evil. This film moves at good clip, while telling its masterful story. Folks who have read the book, may not take kindly to the "happy" ending of the film. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful adaptation of Hugo's work and is definitely worth recommending.
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