The Elephant Man (1982)

Article 3787 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-15-2011
Posting Date: 12-27-2011
Directed by Jack Hofsiss
Featuring Phillip Anglim, Kevin Conway, Penny Fuller
Country: USA
What it is: Photographed stage play

A horribly deformed man is taken in by a doctor who hopes to help him live a life of normalcy.

Though I have a great affection for the David Lynch movie version of the John Merrick story, I did have one problem with it that I mentioned when I covered that movie, and that is that every once in a while it tries just a little bit too hard to tug the heartstrings. That is not a problem with this version of the story, which strives for subtlety and comes across as more realistic and less fanciful than the Lynch version. Granted, it is a photographed stage play, and though the camera does more than just plant itself in one spot and record a performance, it does come across as drier, less cinematic, and talkier. Nonetheless, the talk is good and often very clever, it delves a little deeper into certain issues that the movie avoids (such as Merrick’s sexuality), and is equally powerful in its own way. Of course, the two versions do have a lot in common; in particular, they both deal with the possibility that the title character is ultimately being used in the same way by the doctor and the hospital as the showman did. I’m glad I’ve seen both versions, and I would watch either one again. My favorite moment in this one is when the actress decides that she is going to shake John Merrick’s right hand.

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