The Man Who Laughs (1966)

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1966)
aka L’uomo che ride
Article 4909 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-24-2015
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Featuring Jean Sorel, Lisa Gastoni, Ilaria Occhini
Country: Italy / France
What it is: Period action movie

A man whose face was mutilated by gypsies in childhood becomes embroiled in a conflict between the Borgias and a rebel named Astorre Manfredi.

I’m quite fond of the 1928 version of this story, but I must admit that I’ve not read the Victor Hugo novel on which it was based. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that earlier movie, but as I watched this one, I found myself not recognizing most of the story elements, and at a certain point in the plot, I became rather curious as to whether either of the two movies matched the plot of the Hugo novel. I checked some plot summaries at Wikipedia, and I can say with some certainty that the 1928 version is far more faithful to the novel than this one is, as I saw no mention of the Borgias in that summary. That’s a bit of a comfort, actually; I’d rather not blame Hugo for some of the silly story developments that pop up in this adaptation. I was a little puzzled at first as to why the same actor played both the title character (here named Angelo rather than Gwynplaine) and Astorre, but the reason became clear during the final third of the movie. This, of course, brings us to the fantastic content in the movie; there’s the obvious horror content of a disfigured man, but the movie also ventures into science fiction territory when it posits the existence of plastic surgery at the time of the Borgias. I have no idea how this plot was concocted; it almost seems they had a whole different storyline written and then attached a few elements borrowed from the Hugo novel. The movie is pretty weak, but it’s so different from the 1928 version that I doubt that it will ruin anyone’s memory of that version.

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