The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Article #568 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-4-2002
Posting date: 2-27-2003

The deformed bell-ringer of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris becomes enamored with a beautiful gypsy woman.

Whatever one can say about the charm of low-budget movies, there’s something about the sweep of a full-blooded Hollywood spectacle at its best that cannot be denied. I don’t just enjoy this version of Victor Hugo’s classic tale; I get swept up in it, especially by the masses of crowds that fill the screen in this movie; I get the sense that this is a very real world indeed, and the story that we follow is just part of a vast parade of many stories. The story itself is quite engaging, too, and a good deal of this is due to the fine acting by everyone concerned, especially from Charles Laughton as Quasimodo; he is unforgettable. It also features Sir Cedric Hardwicke as the villain, as well as Maureen O’Hara, a very young Edmond O’Brien, George Zucco, Rondo Hatton (if you watch closely) and a vast array of familiar character actor faces. This is one of my favorites, and it always leaves me somewhat speechless, and despite the fact that it makes significant changes to Hugo’s novel, it remains the version of this classic tale that I prefer.


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