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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
This version of the Hugo novel is more faithful in both tone and plot than is the earlier Charles Laughton version. That said, it's not nearly as much fun.
La Lollo is quite fetching and earnest as Esmeralda and gives an effective, if slightly bosom-heaving, performance. Quinn, with his simian features accented by makeup, is a good Hunchback. He doesn't milk the role for pathos, and let's the viewer see several sides to Quasimodo. Alain Cuny is dark and brooding as Frollo, but he doesn't register as vividly as Cedric Hardwick in the earlier version.
Then there's some pretty bad acting from others in cast, but the script is pretty flat and misses some good opportunities. In the earlier version, Laughton (his double, actually) swings across the plaza, scoops up Esmeralda (the gorgeous Maureen O'Hara) and swings back into the church. Quinn just shinnies down a rope and yanks Lollo into the church. More probable, perhaps, but not so exciting.
It's a gorgeous, colorful widescreen epic, nicely served by the DVD release. It's not a sentimental movie; neither is the novel. And it's worth a kind look.
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