Quasimodo, the hunchback bellringer of Notre Dame's cathedral meets a beautiful gypsy dancer, Esmeralda, and falls in love with her. So does Quasimodo's guardian, the archdeacon of the cathedral, and a poor street poet. But Esmeralda's in love with a handsome soldier. But when a mob mistakes her for a witch, it's up to Quasimodo to rescue her and claim sanctuary for her in the cathedral. Written by
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1982) turns out be the first time I've watched a filmed adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. It's just something I've never got around to before now, despite owning both the silent version and the Charles Laughton outing on video. I guess it says something about my tastes in film when I've watched Paul Naschy's HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE before this story! As it happens, HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME turns out to be a fairly decent film, although I can't vouch for how faithful it is as I haven't read the novel. Despite being a made-for-TV production, it's eventful and intriguing, mainly worth watching for a superior cast who acquit themselves well with the material.
Anthony Hopkins, in the titular role, plays it for sympathy and it works. He's virtually unrecognisable beneath the heavy and effective makeup, and his hunchback is a tragically maligned character throughout. Lesley-Anne Down is a believable object of lust and affection for most of the cast, and Derek Jacobi has a fine line in playing villainous characters (his turn as Claudius in Branagh's HAMLET was another favourite).
Watch out for minor roles for David Suchet (with hair!), Tim Pigott-Smith, John Gielgud, Nigel Hawthorne and Robert Powell, who's wasted in a minor part. Also watch out for decent production values, with elaborate sets, and assured direction from TV helmsman Michael Tuchner. I wouldn't necessarily call this depiction of the novel definitive - it feels a little slow and stagy in places, a little cold - but it is a solidly entertaining picture.
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