The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Lon Chaney as The Hunchback The great Lon Chaney starred in the first feature movie version of Victor Hugo’s novel in 1925, building on the success of his Phantom Of The Opera (1923), As with Phantom, Chaney did all his own makeup in this story of the tortured soul working as a bell ringer in a lavish film set in medieval Paris, who falls in love with a gypsy dancing girl (Ruth Miller), and is then publicly whipped on a turntable. The original version runs over 90 minutes; beware of edited versions as short as 68 minutes.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

This second version stars Charles Laughton, and was his favorite, most personal film. Though the public didn’t know it, Laughton was a homosexual, which the studio kept secret. He had always felt somewhat of an outcast himself, and loved the script of 15th century outcast Quasimodo, the misshapen bell-ringer kept hidden from the public who falls in love with a young gypsy accused of being a witch. When the public finds out, they storm the cathedral in classic Hollywood fashion. The huge multi-story cathedral was constructed on a set just for this film. Movie debut of Maureen O’Hara (as his girl Esmeralda) and of Edmond O’Brien. Many consider this the best version ever made, Universal’s first major “monster movie” after it changed hands in 1935 and started specializing in musicals. Nominated for best sound and best score. Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays the villainous Frollo, with Walter Hampden as the ArchBishop. 115 minutes.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1957)

This version, filmed entirely in France, portrays Quasimodo (Anthony Quinn) as a Mongoloid slobbering mumbling idiot; with sex-kitten Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda. Plodding film tries for art and misses scope and flavor of Hugo’s story. Rarely scheduled on TV anymore for obvious reasons. 104 minutes, rated PG

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1976)

BBC-TV version stars Warren Clark, with Michelle Newell as Esmeralda and Kenneth Haigh as Frollo, the ArchDeacon

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)

American-TV version stars (pre-Hannibal) Anthony Hopkins as the famous hunchback with surprising warmth. The detailed Notre Dame cathedral was built on Pinewood Studios (London) backlot by production designer John Stoll. Originally seen on TV under traditional full title. John Gielgud, Lesley-Anne Down, David Suchet (TV’s Hercule Poirot), Derek Jacobi. 150 minutes, color, rated PG. VHS video version is 102 minutes.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

This Disney-animated version (songs by Menken & Schwartz, who also did Disney’s Pocahontas) added three live gargoyles to the story for Quasimodo to talk to (Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough and Mary Wickes, who died just 6 weeks later). Tom Hulce is the voice of the pathetic, deformed bell-ringer, and Demi Moore (The 7th Sign, G.I. Jane, The Scarlet Letter) as Esmeralda. Music works well within story but there wasn’t a single hit song as with other Disney fantasies. Jane Withers, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin Kline (Fierce Creatures) 85 minutes rated G.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997)

Cable-TV remake stars Mandy Patinkin as Quasimodo and Salma Hayek, with Richard Harris as the cold cleric Frollo, who secretly lusts for her himself. 98 minutes, unrated

The Hunchback of the Morgue

(1972, aka The Rue Morgue Massacres, made in Spain)
Low-budget mixture of a mad scientist story and Edgar Allen Poe’s “Murders In The Rue Morgue,” with a hunchbacked Frankenstein and R-rated gore. Sequel: Dracula’s Great Love. 90 minutes

The Hunchback of UCLA

(1989, aka Big Man On Campus)
Allan Katz (Children Of The Corn 2, Tales From The Crypt: Bordello Of Blood) wrote and stars as a primitive wild-man living in the bell tower of a Los Angeles university. He falls in love with a pretty co-ed but is captured by the psychology department. Professor Tom Skerritt (The Devil’s Rain) and tutor Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2, Phantom Of The Paradise) try to assimilate him into the educational system. Second half of movie is better, though that’s not saying much. Cindy Williams (American Graffiti), Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Suspiria), Corey Parker, Melora Hardin. Rated PG-13. Leonard Maltin gives it no stars. No relation to “Dr. Frankenstein On Campus” (1970)

The Hunchback also co-stars in past Monstervision feature Mad Monster Party

Back to

© Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. That's my 2½¢ worth