Saturday, September 10, 2011

Film #75: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Quasimodo, come on down, you are the next contestant for People Plinko!

Grab your nearest tormentor and pick a slot in the Notre Dame roof. Now, toss them below!

Oooh, watch as they bounce down those gargoyles and flying buttresses! Big money for the deformed monstrosity that hits people or objects below.

Why, your first Plinko "Chip" just hit some rioting Paris-trash. For that, you win unlimited ringing of the death bell!
Thanks for playing... NOW GET BACK TO YOUR CAGE MUTANT!

Quasimodo sure has it rough. He's deaf, half blind, disfigured, and forced to live on a church bell ringers salary in 15th century France.
But, at least he loves his job. And does he REALLY love it. Doesn't matter what he is ringing those Notre Dame dingers for, he does it with GUSTO.
Seems the bells are the only thing that gives this wretched soul peace. Bells, and a belle.

That belle being Esmeralda, a bewitching gypsy girl who dances like a whore but lives like Mother Theresa. To Esmeralda's good, there is Jehan's evil. The brother of Notre Dame's archdeacon, Jehan is an aristocrat with a lust for both money and pretty ladies. Fancy that a trollup like Esmeralda would hook his hambone.

But, Esmeralda doesn't want anything to do with Jehan, she is more into the Prince Charming riding a horse type. And she finds him in Phoebus, Captain of the Guards and probably captain of the Hair Club for Men. Ohhhh, Jehan knew he couldn't get Esmeralda, not without growing luscious locks like his foe. So Jehan hired an unwitting Quasimodo to kidnap her under cover of night. Well, in comes Phoebus to the rescue, arresting Quasimodo and saving Esmeralda.

You'd think that Esmeralda would hate Quasimodo after he tried to abduct her. But she is as kind as she is beautiful, and tends to Quasi after he takes a vicious public lashing for his crime.

Phoebus ponders Esmeralda, as a hungry nave ponders the feast.

A lady being kind to twisted ugly Quasimodo! Doesn't happen often, so Quasi takes a shine to her. But, handsome Phoebus also shines on that crazy diamond, and even wins her heart, but not to the pleasure of Esmeralda's father/owner, the peasant King of Thieves who has a stick in his craw about aristocrats like Phoebus. Revolution is afoot!

One thing leads to another, shouts of "the aristocrats are stealing our women" are thrown around, and soon the entire peasant population is in a tizzy and wrestling up a revolt.

Everybody's all pissed off, and our buddy Modo doesn't like it! The story climaxes with Quasimodo dishing out pain from atop the Notre Dame, human Plinko and all, in an attempt to save Esmeralda from the mob.

Will love conquer social class?
Can Quasimodo ever show his love for Esmeralda?
Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
Find out, in the 1923 silent classic "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

RDHP Ratings and Review

C-Rating: 2.0
Chris Dimick modos: "Can one actor's performance carry an entire film? Can someone be so great that you can overlook other flaws and faults and declare a movie entertaining based on the merits of one person. I don't believe so, but if anyone has ever come close, it is Lon Chaney Sr. in this film.

"The Man of a Thousand Faces" certainly donned an ugly one for his portrayal of the hunchbacked Quasimodo. In addition to being an actor, Lon was also a master makeup artist, and helped craft many of his faces including Quasimodo and his follow up horror role, the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. The man even fathered horror, serving as father to Lon Chaney Jr. who would find fame playing first the Wolf Man and then even Frankenstein and Dracula.

But back to Senior, who we have given much love to before when we screened his "The Unknown," Film #20 in the RDHP.

As Quasimodo, Lon was brilliant. He leaped and crouched, did acrobatics on a staged Notre Dame overhang that would make both Olympic parallel bar contestants and circus freaks blush. He licked his lips over a hideous snarl of summer teeth (summer here, some are there). He emoted contempt, pain, torture, and sorrow... all without a single line of dialog.

If I was grading Lon Chaney's performance in this film, I would give him a 5.0. But sadly his surroundings didn't compare, and hence this film gets a 2.0.

On the set

The plot was typical star-crossed lovers bull-hockey. The movie was much too long for a silent film (1h 41min). And while the scope and cinematography was probably mind bending in its day, with the massive sets, thousands of extras, and elaborate fighting chaos, it didn't hold up to modern day pizzazz. Comparisons aside, the film was beautiful... but if this movie has taught us anything, it's that beauty alone doesn't a good thing make.

Lon, I give you claps. Movie, I give you snores."

N-Rating: 3.2
Nick Rich modos: "Poor Quasi! Chris fell prey to the peer pressure of the mob in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and began hating on your movie! I on the other had didn't cave in under the pressure...

Mobs. Hating since, well, ever.

Sure, I wanted to fit in and be cool just like all of the other kids who were ragging on your work to make themselves feel and look better, but Quasi, you showed me something I had never seen before: an impressive silent film. 

Yes, Quasi was blue.
To my recollection, Hunchback was the first silent film I saw in its entirety as an adult (I fell asleep to Metropolis during a high school film class) and it was definitely the first one I saw in a theater. At first I thought seeing a silent would be an adventure, but that I wouldn't really enjoy it... but Quasi made me think differently. Sure, by today's standards there were limitations to film making at the time, but the creative use of colored slides (the night scenes looked blue and indoor scenes looked yellow, while the rest of the film was in black and white) genuinely surprised me and the emotion conveyed by the muted thespians succeeded in striking a cord in me - almost 100 years after it was filmed. All of which left me impressed and open to exploring more silent films.

In fact, you might say The Hunchback of Notre Dame had a hand in creating the RDHP. You see, the first and only year I have been able to attend the Music Box Massacre (a 24 hour horror movie marathon in Chicago) with Chris, Hunchback was the first film. We had been Skyping and watching horror films together before attending the event, but after being exposed to several great older films, we both were bitten by the bug to experience horror throughout cinematic history... and Hunchback's impressive showing had a hand in that.  

Talk about impressive - Phoebus' hair was off the chain(mail)! 

While we're mentioning facts: did you know that Hunchback was the only filmed released in 1923 that can even come remotely close to being considered a horror movie? While Chris and I try to watch films in the project that at least one of us hasn't seen before, 1923 left us no choice! Good thing Quasi was there to swoop in to the rescue! Oh, Quasi... you've given me so much and received so little. I hope wherever you are you're happily hurling people off of a Gothic structure.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you've ever wondered what I would look like as a Captain of the guard in 15th century France or if you want your insides stirred by a plastic encrusted man-beast."

Things We Learned from The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
-Skype is not better for movie watching than the Music Box Theater.
-Even the deaf love church bells.
-Old school Frenchmen loved them some goat!
-One bare shoulder can make a man go wild.
-Jackalopes are lame.
-Swift run the sands of time, expect in the hour of pain.
-Quasimodo licks his lips more than L.L. Cool J.
-Some people have so little misery, they must create more.
-When honesty doesn't matter, you resort to torture.
-Unrestrained pleasure involves dressing like a monkey:

Quote of the Viewing:
[An aristocrat woman is sporting a hat that has two large loops on the top of it, joining together flush as if butt cheeks.]

Nick: "She is wearing two large buttocks on her head."
Chris: "I've heard of buttheads, but this is ridiculous."
Nick: "That stinks."

RDHP Presents:
Creatures More or Equal Too Quasimodo's Ugly
Tyra Banks would not be a fan of Quasimodo. The back-humps, the diseased cloudy right eye, and all the nasty lip-licking is not top model material (even during the fatty "cycle"). But that isn't to say olde 'Modo doesn't look Quasi attractive when set next to these butterfaces.

Below, we examine creatures that would make a blind man cover his eyes. To really throw salt in a wound, we've thrown in a overly mean joke as well, in honor of this movie... which taught us how to hate ugly. That was the morale, right?

Hey you guys! Hey, you guys, seriously, come back.
"Sloth, you're so ugly, when you walk into the bank they turn off the cameras."

Clint Howard
When you have to say Ron Howard got all the looks in the family... that doesn't bode well for his brother Clint.
"Clint, you're so ugly, you went to a haunted house and came out with an application."

Anne Hathaway
Anne is so ugly, even her facial features are running away from her... in different directions.
Wait, the so ugly joke is supposed to come last.
"Anne, you're so ugly, you have to sneak up on your mirror."

The Cat Lady
Ahhhhhhh, yep, there it is. We peed our pants due to the horror this picture induces.
"Internet Cat Lady, you're so ugly, you have to Trick or Treat by phone."

The Kardashian Family
Sure, on the outside they are prettier than Quasimodo. But their insides are uglier than Quasimodo's last shoot in Playgirl. You know, the one that caused all those self-blindings. The full frontal.
"Kardashian Family, you're so ugly, the tide wouldn't bring you in."

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