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As far as I know, this has only shown on television in the US once (summer of '77), and has never been on video. I remember this TV movie obviously had a much lower budget that the three previous theatrical versions. However, I found it fascinating because it is at least as true to the book as the Anthony Quinn version. Like Victor Hugo's book, it has dark humor mixed with tragedy, and does not seem very concerned about offending the church. They did something similar in the 1982 TV movie with Anthony Hopkins, but that felt like more of an adaptation of the Charles Laughton version than like a new adaptation of the book. The versions I enjoy watching the most are those from 1939 and 1996, but I'll be grateful if anyone can tell me where I can get a copy of this one on DVD or VHS.
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I saw this BBC made but released as a Hallmark Hall of Fame Production when I was twelve years old. Warren Clarke was excellent as Quasimodo though not as ugly as some. His performance was very much like Anthony Quinn. Miss Newell turned in a good performance. A little inexperienced at that time as an actress (she later went on to play most famous Cleopatra of all in the British miniseries The Cleopatras)is not as sexy as some of the past Esmeraldas. She looked like a teenager which Esmeralda was in the book fifteen years of age. Maureen O'Hara was in her late teens when she took on the role. Salma Hayak was in her twenties. Lesley Ann Down and Gina Lollobrigida were 29 and 30 when they took over the part. Silent film star Patsy Miller also made a very young Esmeralda. Haigh's Frollo is a perfect villain. Anyone who enjoys a faithful rendition should see or possibly obtain a copy of this film it is worth it. In my opinion this production compares favorably in faithfulness to the novel with the 1957 Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida film and with the French Movie musical Notre Dame De Paris. Here comes the spoiler unlike the Charles Laughton,Anthony Hopkins and Silent film star Lon Chaney Senior films, this film is true to the novel THERE ARE NO HAPPY ENDINGS FOR THE MAIN CHARACTERS. Hallmark,PBS,BBC most of the time released excellent productions of literary classics and I hope and pray that more of them become available on DVD through film/TV archives or from rare film collectors. This version of the timeless classic is a rare treat!
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I've just got this 1976 BBC adaptation of 'Notre Dame de Paris' on disc
from the Netherlands, (why no UK release?), and I now remember that I
saw it on TV when I was about 11. It's a solid, faithful adaptation:
studio-bound, so more like a stage production, with elegantly inventive
sets reminiscent of the stylised architecture you see in manuscript
illuminations. Some of the extras, especially the Truands, are pure
Villon or Bosch. It also gets full marks from me for using the glorious
'Kyrie' from Guillaume de Machaut's 'Messe de Notre Dame' at the
beginning (I am a mediæval music fan!). It follows the book closely,
although Quasimodo's fate is changed, and, as so often (bar the 1923
film and the 1966 BBC version), Pâquette and her story are dropped.
It has the best Pierre Gringoire and Jehan Frollo yet (Christopher Gable and David Rintoul respectively). Indeed, this version could be retitled 'The Philosopher-Playwright of Notre Dame', since Gringoire (my second-favourite character) gets most of his best scenes and dialogue, including the scene where Claude, his former tutor, finds him working as a street entertainer! Warren Clarke is a good Quasimodo: his trial is straight from the book. It must always be remembered that, despite the popular English title, he is *not* the main character: English-language adaptations tend to over-emphasise his role. I don't understand the script's claim that he would be hanged: it's not suggested in the novel, and more probably he would be rewarded for saving the cathedral from the Truands. The spoilt young Fleur-de-Lys (Hetty Baynes) and playboy soldier Phbus (Richard Morant) are also splendidly played, and eminently slappable. As in the book, one becomes infuriated with Esméralda for remaining fixated on the latter, even to death. Weaknesses? Unfortunately, these are in leading roles: Esméralda and Claude.
Michelle Newell's Esméralda is young, pretty and innocent enough, but, to paraphrase Raymond Chandler, her dancing would *not* make an Archdeacon kick a hole in a stained-glass window. She wears far too many clothes,(1970s hippie dress), and her dancing would make no-one's pulse race (probably not even her own). Why didn't they use Gable as choreographer, since he was in the cast? (He later oversaw a full-length ballet of 'Notre Dame' as Artistic Director of the Northern Ballet Theatre.) Her goat Djali, however, is an adorable fluffy white kid with a pink nose.
Kenneth Haigh is miscast as Claude, although he tries hard in the brothel scene, watching jealously as Phbus seduces Esméralda. However, he lacks the required physical presence and intensity (book-Claude is tall, swarthy, lean and broad-shouldered, with passionate eyes). Like all but the 1966 BBC and 1996 ballet portrayals, he is at least a decade too old to play a young man of 35-36. We only get a truncated version of 'Lasciate Ogni Speranza', without its most harrowing moments: no version I've seen to date has included him admitting to stabbing himself, let alone baring his chest to show her the wounds. The chapter 'Fever' is omitted entirely, because in this version, he's present during Esméralda's rescue. Nor do we get the emotional build-up to the 'Porte Rouge' scene, so it comes out of the blue, without his feverish delirium (his wounds are infected) and desperate pleading; without the hideous absurdity of a semi-somnambulistic, sexually ignorant virgin attempting rape. (One doubts he even knows *what to do*, physically.) All in all, it's a curiously passionless portrayal of a passion-racked character: even at the end, he seems far too calm and sane, not physically and mentally ill as in the book. Claude is the novel's tragic hero: Romantic, yet proto-Dostoevskian; a brilliant young intellectual, tortured by desire and tearing the world down around him in crime and madness as he destroys himself and all he loves. For once, I'd like to see an adaptation that really put his psychological struggle centre-stage.
So I recommend this production heartily, with a few reservations. Most adaptations of the novel are dominated by one or other of the main characters: this is definitely Pierre Gringoire's show, and he runs away with it (as well as with the goat)!
The book is a classic, it is very powerfully and vividly written and it moves me to tears too, Frollo is also a very interesting character. Of all the adaptations of Notre Dame De Paris, apart from the Golden Films and Burbanks Animation Studios low-budget animated versions while not all are faithful(though that has never been a necessity from personal opinion regarding film adaptations) to the book none of them are bad. This version is very good, that it is the truest to the book along with the Anthony Quinn version(also good, although Quasimodo's rescue of Esmeralda is done the most underwhelmingly in that version) helps though it doesn't quite give me the power and emotional poignancy that the Laughton, Disney, Chaney and Hopkins versions did. Michelle Newell is age-appropriate and beautiful but not quite sexy- agreed about her awkward dancing- or compassionate enough, sometimes almost too naive, and Frollo's psychological struggle has been done better in other adaptations(especially Hopkins and even Disney, if not quite to the extent of the book) with some moments happening too suddenly. Although the picture quality is ragged, the film is very evocatively made with settings that are beautiful and very architecturally Medieval and it is well shot. The costumes are appropriate and Quasimodo's make-up while not "grotesque" would make you feel some degrees of initial repulsion if you were to come across him personally. The music is hauntingly beautiful, loved the Medieval chants that were included. The script is meaningful and literate with a lot of parts like the narrative of the book come to life so much its fidelity. And the story is enthralling, the ending is very powerful stuff(one of the few adaptations where it's not a happy one) and it doesn't restrain itself too much. The acting is fine, especially from Christopher Gable's definitive Gringoire and Warren Clarke's genuinely affecting Quasimodo. Kenneth Haigh does a very good job as Frollo, true what he is given to do is not as juicy as one would like but Haigh's Frollo is sympathetic, menacing and above all tortured with a real sense that what isn't right he thinks it is. Djali is very cute as well. All in all, the most underrated Hunchback of Notre Dame adaptation and there is a lot to like outside of its fidelity to the book(which fans will appreciate, as said before if even there is an adaptation that isn't true to the book it still should be seen for what it is on its own instead of being immediately dismissed). 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Oh gosh where do I start? I've seen every version of the Hunchback except a few silent versions that are now lost and I had no hope of ever seeing this version; however, some kind soul uploaded it on you tube and I finally got to see it. All I can say is I'm glad I didn't pay to see it. Low budget doesn't come close to describing this... film. The only good thing I can say about this version is that it does, just like Quinn's version, follow Hugo's novel. It's shot on videotape so maybe that's the problem. It was like watching a play; the scenery never seemed to change. Warren Clarke's Quasimodo was like Mandy Patinkin's; not very ugly and nowhere near Hugo's description in the novel. The actress who played Esmeralda, God bless her, was not cast because she was beautiful. One thing I did like was Quasimodo's trial - it was almost verbatim from the novel, no other version has been that faithful. The pillory scene really showed how low budget this version was - a wagon wheel was turned horizontal (to imitate a pillory) and the actor playing Quasimodo was doing his best to stay on. Glad I didn't waste money to see this version; Chaney, Laughton and even Quinn are probably rolling over in their graves, this was an insult to any actor who has ever donned Quasimodo's makeup. If it ever comes out on DVD save your money and watch this Turkey on you tube.
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