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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Lon Chaney , Patsy Ruth Miller , Wallace Worsley    Unrated   DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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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. It'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

Special Features

This is not the classic Disney animated version.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A SILENT MASTERPIECE. Aug. 25 2002
Format:VHS Tape
In spite of being dubbed the "Man of a Thousand Faces", what sticks in the viewer's memory isn't Chaney's fairly conventional make-up, but rather the way he used his body - his movements and contortions. Bowed under the 72-pound weight of a rubber hump that made it difficult for him to stand up straight, Chaney adopts a weird ape-like crouch, as though his legs were too rickety to support him, but which allows him to scuttle about in a manner frighteningly part-simian and part-arachnoid. Surprisingly eneptly mounted - considering its lavish budget - i.e. many social, religious and sexual abberations which were central to the Hugo novel are missing - and wretchedly directed by Wallace Worsley with a constant flurry of extras milling about, this famous silent film survives solely through Chaney's remarkable performance. Too many horror fans are disappointed, it seems, when they find out that this Victor Hugo story is essentially a historical romance. However, viewers will nevertheless be impressed by Lon Chaney's excellent portrayal of the tragic Quasimodo. For this 1923 extravaganza, it took Universal a year to prepare the enormous sets, a four-month shooting schedule and an incredible cast of 3500 supporting players and extras. Interestingly enough, there were a number of earlier silent versions - the most notable being THE DARLING OF PARIS (1916) - in which Quasimodo won Esmeralda!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone Please Save This Great Film April 12 2002
Format:VHS Tape
It is a measure of the greatness of this film that it is still so deeply moving in spite of the atrocious quality of this recording. Surely it is worth the cost of making a good print.
As it is, it's a disgrace.
The superior quality of this film is mostly the result of the team of Lon Chaney Sr.(Quasimodo) and the director, Wallace Worsley. There is nothing significantly dated about this film.
Its power as truly cinematic (image-based) art is still far beyond most films and nothing in the budget-obsessed Hollywood of today can touch it. Lon Chaney's incredible performance, without the aid of sound(voice)and so well captured by Worsley, is the molten core that radiates its heat and energy to everything else in the film. For me Chaney's Quasimodo is a deeper, more compelling and more truly cinematic creation than that of Charles Laughton. Chaney's Quasimodo is not just pathetic, he is truly frightening, vastly more so than Laughton's, and yet he is utterly heartbreaking. This is one of the few examples of genius captured on celluloid and it should be protected for coming generations. America needs to learn to take care of its precious little real art. This film gets 5 stars, but this recording deserves no more than 2. Nonetheless, I must still highly recommend it. I hope there is someone who cares who has the means to save this great film
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars what exactly does "remastered" mean? July 25 2004
Format:DVD
I bought this dvd instead of other cheaper ones available of this classic movie, thinking I would get a better quality. Perhaps I've been spoiled by other really good DVD of silent film masterpieces, and I don't know what the cheaper DVD are actually like, but if this was remastered, the picture quality does not show it. I give the DVD 3 stars.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite The "Ultimate Edition"... Oct. 9 2007
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
...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.
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This IS The Expanded Restoration That Was on TCM July 23 2007
By G. Ratcheson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Film, Sub-Standard Film Elments Nov. 13 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars accept only the ultimate March 17 2011
By Allan Broadfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The 'ultimate edition' of this film is just that, the best, as far as I know, available. All other representations I have seen of this film appear to originate from the same tired masters. This particular edition is the 'bees knees'! There have been no 35mm elements available for years, but this edition is probably the closest we will get, it's a 16mm print taken from a 35mm element and is as sharp and clear as 16mm can be under the circumstances. The grey scale retains it's integrity which means you won't miss any details, and it has been slightly framed so that you wont miss anything at the edges. Yes, there are plenty of scratches and blemishes, but I imagine that this would be very costly to remove.
Extras include; a copy of the original programme, an interesting and informative commentary, a film of Lon Chaney visiting the set, an extract from another Chaney film, and 3D photographs taken on the set at the time, that you can view through supplied glasses ! What more could you ask?
A note for any modern Philistine types considering this purchase; this is a black and white silent film, and Lon Chaney aint gonna talk!
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Lon Chaney silent film. July 20 2004
By J. Connor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.
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