This loose biopic relates the adult life of Paolina (Paulette), the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. She is portrayed as a willful, yet impulsive woman, through her marriages and scandals, through the heights and depths of Napoleon's life.
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 ... See full summary »
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
The notorious torture scene, where Esmeralda is questioned in the "boot," is rather inaccurate. The prop used is an ornate golden boot that bears little resemblance to any historic torture devices. The type of boot referred to in the original novel would look much more like a simple vise that squeezed the bare foot between two iron plates, likely studded with teeth. See more »
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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