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An Excellent Adaptation

  • Apr 1, 2009
Directed by Michael Tuchner and first aired for television in 1982, this version of Victor Hugo's classic novel features a storyline that stays rather close to Hugo's story and features Anthony Hopkins as one of the better Quasimodo's seen on film.

The overall story of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is fairly common knowledge. Quasimodo is the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame. Quasimodo's master, Dom Claude Frollo (Derek Jacobi), falls in love with a Gypsy dancer named Esmeralda (Lesley-Anne Downs), but when Esmeralda spurns Frollo, he orders Quasimodo to capture her. Later, after an act of tender kindness, Quasimodo falls in love with Esmeralda, but she's enraptured with Captain Phoebus (Robert Powell). Phoebus is intrigued by the women, but just as another trophy to mount. When Esmeralda is sentenced to death for crimes she didn't commit, Quasimodo comes to her rescue and shows himself to be a true hero.

There have been many versions of Hunchback made, but most choose to ignore or skim the more interesting characterizations of the novel. Other than the ending, which has been altered from the original story but remains bittersweet in tone, this version of the novel gets many of the characterizations right. For instance, Dom Claude Frollo is not really a wicked man but a saintly man who becomes consumed by his lust for that which he knows he cannot have. Many versions of the story turn him into an evil villain. This version doesn't and shows Dom Claude Frollo as the good man he is and the internal struggle he faces. Also, in many versions of the story Phoebus is shown as being an almost saintly soldier who is well-matched for Esmeralda. This version shows him for being the selfish, man-whoring, pig that he is described as being in the novel. I also enjoyed how the movie kept Pierre Gringoire involved in the story, just as he is in the novel.

The acting in the movie is excellent. Of course, Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo is the standout. He gives a remarkable performance as the tortured and misunderstood bell-taker. Derek Jacobi also stands out as Dom Claude Frollo. The sets are a bit lackluster and the lighting and cinematography isn't the best. However, this was a made-for-tv movie and considering that, those flaws are acceptable.

I love the story of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and have seen several movie versions of the story. I've only seen about half of the films made based on the tale. I've yet to see the definite version, but this movie is the closest that I've seen, yet. It's a must see for anyone who is a Hunchback fan.

The DVD includes some trailers for other movies and that's it for special features.

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About this movie


It’s one of European literature’s most vivid and romantic tales, so it’s no wonder that Victor Hugo’sThe Hunchback of Notre Dame(actually entitledNotre Dame de Parisby the French novelist) has been adapted for screens both big and small for literally the past 100 years. And while the wicked, tormented priest Dom Claude Frollo is perhaps the most important character, it’s the relationship between Quasimodo, the pathetic but pure-hearted bell ringer, and Esmeralda, the gypsy girl who bewitches him and turns most every other man who comes near her into a fool, that lies at the heart of the tale--hence such notable pairings as Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller (in the 1923 silent classic), Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida… even Mandy Patinkin with Salma Hayek. This 1982 made-for-TV version sports Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo, and not surprisingly, he acquits himself well; even subsumed in a red fright wig and the slabs of makeup that turn him into a hideous monster, Hopkins conveys the mixture of innocence, confusion, and defiance that makes the character so poignant. Lesley-Anne Down, though undeniably beautiful, is much less convincing as Esmeralda, but Derek Jacobi hams it up effectively as Frollo, whose lust for the gypsy dancer turns him into a sanctimonious lunatic. Director Michael Tuchner’s film creates a pretty persuasive ambience for his medieval Paris, with its mud and squalor ...
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DVD Release Date: March 3, 2009
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures

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