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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover


The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
(2022 4K Restoration)


Starring: Lon Chaney
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £22.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 17 October 2022

As part of its Masters of Cinema series, Eureka Entertainment releases the 1923 silent movie classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame on Blu-ray (from 4K scans) for the first time in the UK. Everybody, it seems, has an interest in Esmerelda (Patsy Ruth Miller), the gypsy street dancer/performer. Dashing ladies’ man, Captain Phoebus (Norman Kerry) is besotted with her and even arranges a marriage, but Clopin (Ernest Torrence), self-elected leader of the common folk, rallies the people to forcibly return her to the streets. Simultaneously, Clopin plans to take the city of Paris from the rich people. At the yearly Festival of Fools, Kindly Cathedral bellringer, the twisted hunchback Quasimodo is Crowned King of Fools. However, his mascot status is soon destroyed by the evil Frollo (Brandon Hurst) who also lusts after Esmerelda (Brandon Hurst). Set-up, Quasimodo is whipped in the town square. The gypsy dancer takes pity on him, and in return he saves her, seeking sanctuary in the house of God, when Clopin and Frollo come looking for her...

Based on the hugely popular novel Notre-Dame de Paris, published in 1831 by Victor Hugo, this film version was made by Universal as a ‘Super Jewel’ – a lavish production costing more than one million dollars (a fortune back then), and incorporating a huge cast of extras. Lon Chaney – already a respected actor – was thrown into international super-stardom after his quite remarkable acting performance as the disfigured hunchback was revered around the globe. The majority of Universal’s few-hundred acre site was taken-up by sets for the film, including the quite beautiful full-size recreation of Notre Dame cathedral – complete with a multitude of carved gargoyles and other figures.

It is not by chance this film is still considered a classic. It was one of the first monster movies, and takes a similar path to Frankenstein in terms of a sympathetic monster. Lon Chaney later returned to Universal to portray another iconic figure in The Phantom of the Opera. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a stunning film for its time, with exciting set-pieces. It has an epic grandness to it. So, dispose of those ‘old film’ and ‘subtitles’ blinkers and let yourself in for a treat.

Extras include a brand new Audio Commentary by author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman (always entertaining, this pair is like a double-act); a brand new Interview with Kim Newman on the many adaptations of Victor Hugo’s novel (more of an enthusiastic lecture – informative and fun); a brand new Interview with film historian Jonathan Rigby (again, a talk which is very different in approach to Newman’s – often appears on extras for Hammer films); and there is a Collector’s Booklet featuring a New Essay by journalist Philip Kemp, illustrated with archival imagery. The first 2000 copies incorporate a Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase.


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