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Over the past couple of years, the English-dubbed version of this
Italian-French co-production has been shown continuously on TCM UK.
However, my unconditional love for Paul Leni's 1928 Silent classic
(once one of my top cinematic holy grails) has always kept me away,
perhaps not wishing to sully my fond memories of it. Still, now that
sufficient time has elapsed and coming hot on the heels of a long list
of similar Italian "sword and sandal" epics I've watched recently (a
habit which seems to be nowhere near exhaustion!), I decided to give
this one a go at long last...
Well, to say that Sergio Cobrucci's remake is inferior to Leni's original would be the understatement of the year. Ever since I've seen him in Luis Bunuel's BELLE DE JOUR (1967), I've always liked having Jean Sorel in a film but here, inexplicably playing a dual role, he's certainly no match for Conrad Veidt's bravura performance. The make-up itself is not particularly effective either and the film-makers' decision to take several liberties with Victor Hugo's text is a mixed blessing, too: not only has the titular character suffered a namechange (from the lyrical Gwynplaine to the more prosaic Angelo) but he even turns villainous (becoming the Court's Executioner no less) when his beloved Dea is cured of her blindness and falls for the dashing figure of a patriotic rebel played by none other than Jean Sorel himself!!
The film's setting is also unaccountably changed from 1700s Britain to Renaissance-era Italy where the hateful Borgias - Cesare (hammily portrayed here by Edmund Purdom) and Lucrezia (played by a sultry Lisa Gastoni, and the film's one undeniable bright spot) - preside over their lands with sinful recklessness. Although Veidt was also seduced by a vampish Olga Baclanova (who, amazingly for its time, does appear fleetingly naked in one sequence), unfortunately for him he wasn't allowed to indulge in any sizzling romps in the hay with her as Sorel and Gastoni do in this version. In a sense, this is also what's essentially wrong with this remake: while certainly a watchable if thoroughly routine historical melodrama, it ends up being merely a vulgarization of the sublime original with Corbucci displaying none of the visual poetry which marked Leni's masterpiece. Luckily for him, however, his luck was about to change as he immediately embarked on the film he is perhaps best-known for - the Gothic-tinged Spaghetti Western DJANGO (1966)...
The Man Who Laughs (1966)
** (out of 4)
This remake of the 1928 silent film isn't anywhere near a good movie but I think fans of that original might find themselves entertained by this thing simply by seeing the changes made in the story. This time the story takes place during the Renaissance in Italy as the deformed Angelo (Jean Sorel) strikes revenge when he thinks the woman that he loves has been killed. That's pretty much all the "story" you need to know as it is rather light and often times seems to be made up as the thing moves along. The original version is a true classic but this remake isn't a horrible movie but instead just an interesting misfire. I think this could have made for an interesting picture as the Victor Hugo story itself is so strong that it could support changing in for various times in history. The problem is that director Sergio Corbucci doesn't have the budget or the screenplay to pull it off. The biggest problem is that it seems every scene is just going for a quick thrill and there's never any real time to build up a story or the characters. Just take a look at a scene where Angelo gets to roll around in the hay with a beautiful woman. The entire scene just feels rushed and there for no real reason other than to give 1966 eyes a sex scene. There are actually some good moments to be found including the action scenes, which I thought were directed quite nicely and they contained a good amount of energy. Another plus was the cinematography, which I found quite good and the color certainly got to show off the red hair of Sorel. Speaking of Sorel, he's fairly good in the part considering he isn't given much of a story to work with. The supporting cast doesn't do much to help either. The special effects of the deformed mouth isn't nearly as impressive. There were quite a few changes from the original make up that simply don't work but this is probably due to the limited budget more than anything else. In the end, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS isn't as bad as its reputation but it's mildly interesting to see how it was changed in order to fit Italy in 1966.
This is a new version of famous German classic of 1928 starring Conrad
Veidt. The theme is basically the same: a boy, kidnapped by gypsies, has
his face deformed to be always smiling and thus become a circus
Sold to company of traveling artists, he knows a blind girl, for who falls
But a great difference exists between both movies: Of England of the king James II, the history was transferred to Italy of the 16º century, in the times of Caesar and Lucretia Borgia. Angelo - the man that always laughs - is a monster, horrendous, much uglier than the character that Veidt interprets in the original film and he will become a killer to service of Borgia.
Besides, the history is very exaggerating and a scene is difficult to believe: the plastic surgery that transforms Angelo in a perfect copy of the Duke is absurd even in the patterns of the year 2000, imagine in the 16º century!
A movie without interest, with a good proposal but very badly developed.
To my own personal regret, I haven't yet seen the 1928 classic on which this French/Italian version is based. The basic premise is truly intriguing and you can derive from this film that the original has got to be a fantastic film. The pivot character is a young man called Angelo (Jean Sorel from Lucio Fulci's "Lizard in a Woman's Skin") who got kidnapped as a boy by gypsies in order to turn him into an acrobat and sell him to a circus. His face was horribly mutilated on purpose (he appears to have a constant grin) to increase his "value" as a circus-freak even more. The story is set in 16th century Spain (or is it Italy?) and Angelo is torn between civil wars and an unanswered love. I hope to see the original soon, because I understand that this setting is different and a lot more confusing. This version is overlong and quickly becomes boring. Moreover, the screenplay makes a ridiculous twist near the end, when we're supposed to believe that surgeons in the 16th century were flawlessly capable of performing complex plastic surgery. The make-up effects are admirable, the body count is enormous and Sorel's acting is well above average. Even though a remake, "The Man Who Laughs" is a movie with great potential and it's a shame the execution is so darn poorly.
A really pointless remake of a beautiful original. Even given the changes
Gwymphaine this could still have been worthwhile. But this is one of those
typically unfocused co-productions (bad dubbing, second rate acting, ott
music) that plagued cinema screens in the 60's, and now thanks to TCM UK
too frequently turns up on Satelite here. First time I saw the title in
schedules I got excited and then I saw the year.
Don't waste your time on this one.
I shall not pretend as if I have seen the 1928 version of this movie
(not yet anyway but I'm certainly planning to) with Conrad Veidt in the
main lead, or the original from 1921, of which this movie is a remake
but it's pretty safe to assume that those movies are better than this
The movie is absolutely horribly made. The concept and setting are quite good and promising but it is all wasted with the weak storytelling of it all. The story itself, based on the book by Victor Hugo, is quite fascination, almost Shakesperean like. It has some great elements in it but it is all wasted in this movie. All of the potential is ruined but the weak acting, dreadful camera-work (seriously, don't they know what a focus-puller is?) and horrible editing. The story is also told messy and at times you don't even know who exactly are supposed to be the good guys and the bad guys of the movie. It makes the movie very unpleasant and uneasy to watch at times.
There are still some good moments in the movie, especially in the middle but overall the movie is a dragging, messy, confusing one that isn't really worth watching. The movie also becomes unnecessary ridicules at times, especially toward the ending of the movie. It truly becomes laughable bad at times and loses all of it's credibility because of those many moments, that are present in the movie.
Great story, very bad storytelling and execution of it all.
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