Esmeralda, a beautiful gypsy street dancer, arouses the desire of men, especially of Claude Frollo, the archdeacon of Notre Dame. The latter asks Quasimodo, the deaf and deformed ...
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Esmeralda, a beautiful gypsy street dancer, arouses the desire of men, especially of Claude Frollo, the archdeacon of Notre Dame. The latter asks Quasimodo, the deaf and deformed bell-ringer of the cathedral, to kidnap the girl. Quasimodo, who has been adopted by Frollo and obeys his every word, captures the gypsy but she is saved thanks to Phoebus, a handsome captain, and his archers. Arrested by Phoebus, the hunchback is condemned to be flogged at the pillory. When Esmeralada, moved to pity by his lot, gives him water to drink, Quasimodo falls in love with her. Later, Phoebus is stabbed to death and Esmeralda is wrongly accused of the murder. Sentenced to hang she is saved by Quasimodo who offers her asylum and... the love of his heart... Written by
Here is a three-reel photoplay so well constructed that it has certain elements of superiority to the novel from which it was adapted; it saves the reading of a vast amount of historical literature that does not pertain to the plot. The story is perfectly told without Victor Hugo's graphic force of language and will be more interesting than the novel to a number of people because the continuity is so much better preserved. The story is in some respects a hideous one, and it will be regarded as of doubtful moral value by many who see it. It tells of the unholy passion of Archdeacon Frollo of Notre Dame for a young gypsy dancer named Esmeralda. She first came within reach of his vision while dancing before a crowd in the Place de Notre Dame, a public square in front of the religious edifice. The actual exterior is used in a large number of cases. The priest sees her while he is in company with the hunchback bell-ringer Quasimodo, and around these three characters practically all the interest is grouped. We are first shown the tall, scholarly and morose archdeacon, all the types are well chosen, dressed in his somber gown of black and occupied with the practice of alchemy in a secluded chamber supposed to be within one of the towers of Notre Dame. There is abundant opportunity for fine settings throughout the piece, and no failure to respond on the part of the producers. The hunchback is with him, acting in the capacity of a confidential servant, faithful and stupid enough to serve the tall priest's evil purposes. When these two go forth from the cathedral and join the mob watching the beautiful young dancer, the priest becomes so infatuated that he acts like a man in a spell of enchantment. After the dance, they follow the gypsy girl through the narrow streets of Paris; these are accurate representations; until an opportunity arrives and the powerful hunchback, at the priest's instigation, seizes the girl in his arms and attempts to carry her away. A captain of the guard comes on the scene and Quasimodo is caught, while the "man higher up" escapes as he occasionally does in modern times. The girl falls in love with the captain, but the hunchback is punished on a pillory of fiendish ingenuity. He is strapped to a revolving wheel, whipped in the presence of a mob, and left there in a famished condition to be stoned by the mob. Now comes Esmeralda with more bravery than any man present, and the merciful qualities of womankind added, to the relief of the unfortunate wretch who attempted her abduction. She is again seen by the inflamed archdeacon, and his growing passion leads him to follow her a second time. She goes on her way from the pillory to keep an appointment with the man she has come to love, the gallant captain who prevented the abduction. He has arranged the meeting to be held at a low tavern with a private room for amorous swains on the second floor. Archdeacon Frollo follows Esmeralda to the door of the tavern; he sees her enter and greet the captain with shy tenderness, and becomes tormented with rage when the captain induces the unsuspecting Esmeralda to ascend the stairs. In a frenzy of murderous jealousy the priest climbs up outside of the tavern, enters a dark room adjoining that of the lovers, slips in when they are locked in each other's arms, stabs the captain in the back and escapes. Esmeralda's cries bring the guard, and she is arrested for murdering the man she really loves, carried off to prison and convicted of the crime she denies having committed. The settings are chosen with fine taste up to this period and continue to be of exceptional order throughout; the acting is now intensified in scenes rarely permitted on the stage or screen. Frollo visits Esmeralda in her prison cell in the guise of a confessor, while she has as little on as the law will allow, and there is a struggle between the infatuated priest and the tormented girl that will satisfy critics who like scenes ''true to life." He is repulsed and the beautiful girl is next tortured to wring a confession from her of the crime she did not commit. This scene also is realistic enough to gratify those who delight in the horrible. The gypsy confesses in her agony and is taken to the steps of Notre Dame in a tumbrel with little on but the hangman's rope around her neck to make peace with her creator. There she is seized by the powerful hunchback and carried into the sacred protection of the church before the eyes of those gathered to witness her execution. Quasimodo, acting now from gratitude, hides the unfortunate beauty in his own den and sleeps before the door. Frollo enters at night and overcomes the enfeebled creature, but her cries bring Quasimodo and she is preserved for another fate. She is executed before Notre Dame while Archdeacon Frollo is peering over at the scene from a gallery; these scenes are taken at the cathedral, and he meets death at the same instant at Quasimodo's hands, being hurled to the steps below. Such is the story of horror and human ineptitude, "the most detestable ever written." The school of drama which dwells on hardship and persecution as "realistic" will always have its followers. Be that as it may, the photoplay "Notre Dame de Paris" has exceptional merits. It has extracted a connected narrative from a rambling work of fiction; it is a marvel of setting, interior and exterior; the types are admirably chosen and the acting little short of superb. Many adaptations from noted works of fiction fail; in fact, nearly all of them do in these particulars, hence this one may be preserved in the eventual survival of the fittest. - The Moving Picture World, December 16, 1911
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