Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) It’s 1482 and everyone wants to get with the prettiest girl, wackiness ensues. Lucky for us all that Laemmle’s gamble, financing this super jewel paid off. Tons of spectacle, cruelty, lust, torture, sin and damnation and all straight out of the source material, so that made it all ok to enjoy. After all it’s great literature, right?
My personal opinion is that Chaney’s four and a half hour painful transformation was overkill: the 70lb hump, the rubber suit and the animal fur trim pushed his grotesque into caricature, I think much uglier than what is described in the book. In the end he resembled one of the gargoyles than a malformed man. But that was probably his intention, the film wasn’t made for me. People in the 20s where used to a LOT of ugliness in their day to day that we are now. I’m a wimp, I’d rather avoid looking at Chaney and watch everything else. I suppose if the costume were on a stage it would have to be over the top for the people in the balcony to get the full effect. By making him as ugly as he possibly could it reinforces that monster with a good heart point of the storyline, cause all the pretty people are pretty awful. Secretly I have always thought that Esmerelda was to blame for nearly everything, that’s probably Hugo’s idea as well. She’s too pretty and naive and look what happens? It’s the woman’s fault all the men behave badly.
FWIW You never actually SEE Quasi getting whipped, you never see blood or wounds, like the shower scene, it’s all in your head. The shot cuts away to the crowds getting off on the torture, which is pretty horrifying in itself. (Is that supposed to be US in a way?) You don’t see her get tortured either, and I don’t think she even looks very tortured. The real violence comes with the Cathedral siege where he’s crushing people with granite stones and pouring molten ‘lead’ – there’s your real body count. Gotta love crowds with torches who then get attacked by soldiers on warhorses.
Spoiler Alert: It’s at this point the film ending is way different from the book. The film has a happy ending for Esmerelda and the pretty guy who was really just trying to seduce her. In the book she is hanged and her body thrown on a pile where Quasi finds it and lies down next to it and dies of starvation. The film has him dying from wounds sustained saving her life from her stalker would be rapist. In the end I recommend the FFWD button through any scenes where people are just talking, cause it’s all just justification for their bad behavior.
Real Life Quasimoto Uncovered in Tate Archives