Paris, 1482. Today is the festival of the fools, taking place like each year in the square outside Cathedral Notre Dame. Among jugglers and other entertainers, Esmeralda, a sensuous gypsy, performs a bewitching dance in front of delighted spectators. From up in a tower of the cathedral, Frollo, an alchemist, gazes at her lustfully. Later in the night, Frollo orders Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer and his faithful servant, to kidnap Esmeralda. But when the ugly freak comes close to her is touched by the young woman's beauty... Written by
In this third version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame we get a story far closer to the truth of Victor Hugo's classic novel. Unlike the productions done starring Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton, this one was done in France by the French who took pains to remain faithful to the version Victor Hugo wrote.
Note the title in the original French and note it's the cathedral not the hunchback who is the center of the story. That allowed Italian film star Gina Lollobrigida to be billed first and then Anthony Quinn as the hunchback. No doubt about it Lollobrigida is the sexiest Esmerelda going, she makes both Patsy Ruth Miller and Maureen O'Hara look like nuns. Then again she was who the movie going public was paying to see.
This is not to take anything away from Anthony Quinn who seems to extend his role as the brutish strong man in La Strada into his portrayal of Quasimodo. Although Charles Laughton's performance is my favorite, this does not denigrate Quinn in any way.
The rest of the cast is made up of players from the French cinema. I particularly liked Jean Tissier as the 'Spider King' Louis XI. It's a subtle piece of acting and you can see why this was no man to trifle with.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a tale of innocence. Quasimodo's to be sure, but even the sexy and voluptuous Esmerelda. She may know all about sex, but she's pretty ignorant in the ways of the political world. Both protagonists are used by forces and people they cannot comprehend.
This version of the Victor Hugo classic has its supporters and they should support this great retelling of a classic tale.
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