The Man Who Laughs

Overview

A film that has long been associated with horror due to its strikingly grotesque central image, Paul Leni's touchingly melodramatic adaptation of author Victor Hugo's novel of the same name arrives on DVD courtesy of the folks at Kino. Presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, the image, without question, shows signs of age. This is not to say it is not entirely unacceptable as presented; on the contrary, for a film that was released in 1928, the image is presented commendably. The only real complaints one could make in ...
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Overview

A film that has long been associated with horror due to its strikingly grotesque central image, Paul Leni's touchingly melodramatic adaptation of author Victor Hugo's novel of the same name arrives on DVD courtesy of the folks at Kino. Presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, the image, without question, shows signs of age. This is not to say it is not entirely unacceptable as presented; on the contrary, for a film that was released in 1928, the image is presented commendably. The only real complaints one could make in terms of image quality is that it certainly shows obvious signs of wear, the print contains notable traces of debris, and the image itself jitters just a bit. The last complaint could almost be dismissed, though, as it gives the viewer a sort of artificial, nostalgic sensation of watching the film via projection instead of through a video source. Likewise, the musical score cracks and pops a bit here and there, but is evenly mixed and suits the image well. Curious viewers will no doubt be drawn to this disc courtesy of some tempting extras, as well. In addition to including a rare clip of the popular "At Home With..." series featuring star Conrad Veidt cavorting with the likes of Greta Garbo and Dolores Del Rio, an original documentary on the film's production offers rare insight concerning attempts to recreate the magic of The Hunchback of Notre Dame by luring in star Lon Chaney. An excerpt from the original Italian-language release offers a curious look at a foreign release print with hand-painted title cards; a gallery of production photos is also extensive and well presented. If viewers are up for a little reading, liner notes include an informative essay by John Soister detailing, among other things, the release of the film at the advent of sound. In addition, an excerpt from Hugo's original novel offers viewers a chance to see how the written word was translated for the silver screen.
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Special Features

Original 20-minute documentary on the making of the film; Candid home-movie footage of Conrad Veidt and fellow European émigrés Greta Garbo, Emil Jannings, and Camilla Horn; Gallery of rare photographs and art; Booklet essay by John Soister, author of "Conrad Veidt on Screen"; Excerpt of the Italian release version, with unique hand-painted title cards; Excerpt from Victor Hugo's original novel
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Hans J. Wollstein
German director Paul Leni's second film for Universal, The Man Who Laughs, remains a stirring experience. Begun as yet another fantastic vehicle for Lon Chaney, the drama instead stars Conrad Veidt, who possessed the one quality that Chaney perhaps lacked: sex appeal. With Veidt in the role, it is not totally inconceivable that Olga Baclanova's duchess, never mind how decadent, could be attracted to Gwynplaine despite his hideous deformity. No one but Veidt could add realism to as thoroughly melodramatic a character as Victor Hugo's unfortunate Gwynplaine. Of course, the perpetual grin forced the actor to perform with his eyes only, and the result is never less than magnificent. When performing in front of the rowdy country fair crowds, Veidt's eyes fit his carved grin perfectly, but at other times they convey embarrassment over his disfigurement, tenderness toward Lea (Mary Philbin), and at all times an aching sadness. Legendarily wooden as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Mary Philbin is much better here and handles her blind scenes in a surprisingly realistic manner. Always the most democratic of silent femme fatales -- her victims coming from all walks of life -- Olga Baclanova, in only her second Hollywood film, lolls about in slinky black negligees, but she too is well-directed and less broad than under more lenient directors. Veering at all times to just this side of the maudlin, Paul Leni created an unforgettable universe filled with romance, wickedness, and heartache.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/30/2003
  • UPC: 738329031022
  • Original Release: 1927
  • Rating:

  • Source: Kino Video
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: Black & White
  • Sound: silent
  • Time: 1:50:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Conrad Veidt Gwynplaine
Mary Philbin Dea
Olga Baclanova Duchess Josiana
Josephine Crowell Queen Anne
George Siegmann Dr. Hardqucinnone
Brandon Hurst Barkilphedro, the Jester
Sam de Grasse James II
Stuart Holmes Lord Dirry-Noir
Cesare Gravina Ursus
Nick De Ruiz Wapentake
Edgar Norton Lord High Chancellor
Torben Meyer The Spy
Julius Molnar Jr. Gwynplaine as a Child
Carmen Costello Dea's "Mother"
Lon Poff
Charles Puffy Innkeeper
Frank Puglia Clown
Jack Goodrich Clown
Allan Cavan
Technical Credits
Paul Leni Director
J. Grubb Alexander Screenwriter
Walter Anthony Screenwriter
Edward L. Cahn Editor
Charles Hall Art Director
Walter Hirsch Songwriter
Mary McLean Screenwriter
Thomas F. O'Neill Art Director
Maurice Pivar Editor
Lew Pollack Songwriter
Erno Rapee Songwriter
Gilbert Warrenton Cinematographer
Charles E. Whittaker Screenwriter
Joseph C. Wright Art Director
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Titles [3:48]
2. A Father's Fate [3:21]
3. Abandoned Child [8:02]
4. Traveling Players [4:40]
5. Southwark Fair [4:56]
6. A Word for the Duchess [6:00]
7. The Scandal Starts [10:46]
8. Command Performance [8:46]
9. A Chance for Love [9:05]
10. A Private Audience [10:00]
11. Under Arrest [7:31]
12. The Show Must Go On [7:36]
13. A Peer of England [5:51]
14. A Little Surprise [7:35]
15. Gwynplaine's Flight [12:41]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Start Film
   Scene Selection
   Special Features
      The Story Behind The Man Who Laughs
      At Home With Conrad Veidt
      Excerpt of the Italian Version
      Excerpt of Hugo's Novel
      About the Restoration
      Gallery of Photographs
      Gallery of Promotional Material
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