Clopin bought Esmeralda from the gypsies when she was young. Dancing in the square at the festival, Esmeralda is spotted by Jehan, the evil brother of the good archdeacon Claude Frollo. When he sets Quasimodo out to kidnap Esmeralda, Phoebus, Captain of the Guards, rescues her and captures Quasimodo. The courts sentence Quasimodo to be flogged, and the only one who will give him water while he is tied in the square is Esmeralda. After Clopin forces Esmeralda to leave Phoebus at the ball, she sends a note to Phoebus to meet her at Notre-Dame. In the garden, Phoebus is stabbed in the back by Jehan. Esmeralda is accused of stabbing Phoebus, convicted by the courts and sentenced to hang. When Esmeralda again rejects Jehan, he tells her that Phoebus is dead, even though it is not true. Clopin, Phoebus and Quasimodo all try different ways to save Esmeralda. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
This superior silent movie (even when viewed in a substandard print as the one I saw) blossoms as one of the finest literary adaptations to appear on the screen.
Quasimodo, the repulsive deaf hunchback who rings the bells for Notre Dame Cathedral, is played by the multi-faceted Lon Chaney, and he puts the different aspects of the character across very well - fear, hatred, betrayal, longing, kindness. This is a misunderstood 'freak' who has much of the human spirit intact within him despite the betrayals of those who should protect him.
Patsy Ruth Miller is an effective Esmeralda, pretty and compelling whether in her gypsy dance or at the finale where she watches the battle between the turrets of the Cathedral and the square below as her people try to battle their way into Sanctuary.
Also of note are Nigel de Brulier as Claudio, Ernest Torrence as gypsy king and Esmeralda's foster father Clopin, Tully Marshall as a bored Louis XI, Norman Kerry as a posturing Phoebus, Brandon Hurst as a cunning Jehan, and Raymond Hatton as a twittery Gringoire.
There are nice touches in the staging, too - as Esmeralda and Phoebus lunch at an inn, a spider sucks a fly into her web; while the gypsy band at the steps of Notre Dame get showered with a rain of molten lead as Esmeralda hides in safety in the cathedral tower.
The version I saw used music and sound effects to accompany the pictures and titles, which was done very well. The film may seem a little long, and could spend more time on Chaney and less on Miss Miller, but it is a good piece of work.
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