Reel Classics

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 4K Restoration (1923) - Blu-ray Review

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 4K Restoration

Lon Chaney as Quasimodo.  Need I say anymore?  I don’t really think so, but I’ll flex.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a certified REEL CLASSIC of silent, cinematic horror and it begins right there with Chaney’s performance as the deaf, half-blind, hunchbacked bell-ringer of the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.  It's a classic performance that time has not diminished in any way. 

"pitches back and forth in a rather beautiful dance between horror and romance"


 

Quasimodo’s life is a tortured existence and, yes, you feel every second of his agony as he - being oppressed by Jehan (Brandon Hurst), the the evil brother of Notre Dame's saintly archdeacon Dom Claude (Nigel De Brulier) - finds himself falling head over heels in love with the beautiful Esmeralda, a dancing gypsy girl, that Jehan orders him to kidnap.

How’s that for first meetings?  Will there be a consequence for the abduction?  You bet and that lashing consequence, set in the public square, is highlighted by a scene where Esmeralda, an act of grace, offers Quasimodo some water, flowing from tragic and haunting to one of beauty and grace rather effortlessly.  

This is the power of the movie and, under Wallace Worsley’s direction, The Hunchback of Notre Dame pitches back and forth in a rather beautiful dance between horror and romance as Esmeralda herself gets pinched for murder and receives forgiveness from both Quasimodo and Dom Claude, who is well aware of just how conniving Jehan is when he doesn’t get what or who he wants.The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 4K Restoration

It is a murderous movie and, with Quasimodo leading a revolution among the underworld in order to free Esmeralda from the clutches of Jehan, ends on a note of tragedy.  But there is an aching poetry to each of its scenes, concluding with the final note as the cathedral bells sound above the lifeless body of Quasimodo.

I am fortunate enough to have had my first time with Worsley’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Los Angeles at The Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue.  That was when it was run by Laurence Austin, who introduced the film and, as expected, was a character himself and, alas, gunned down a few months later.  The images presented in that viewing have never left my skull and, thanks to Kino Lorber’s sincere 4K restoration, they will live on forever.

5/5 stars

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 4K Restoration

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- September 28, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: English intertitles
Audio:
DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) is a million-dollar super-production of Victor Hugo’s famous novel, presented in a 4K restoration by Universal Pictures. This epic adaptation recreated the Paris of 1482 complete with its own Notre Dame, and it established Lon Chaney as a monstrously sympathetic superstar. Chaney stars as Quasimodo, the mocked and vilified bell-ringer of Notre Dame who selflessly protects the starcrossed street performer Esmerelda (Patsy Ruth Miller), who is in an ill-fated love affair with the dashing Captain Phoebus (Norman Kerry). Chaney created the legendary makeup himself, and gave a performance of enormous sensitivity and pathos, launching him into Hollywood immortality.

Video:

Framed in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the 4K work - conducted by Universal - surpasses Flicker Alley’s transfer.  The release is impressive as this release marks a newly restored version of the film, highlighted by the original tint cells which show an impressive amount of depth and clarity to the nearly 100-year-old film.  The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  The details in Chaney’s make-up are visible, the background streets are dominant, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pastoral backgrounds are all visible with fine textures throughout. Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. There is minor print damage, but that is to be expected.

Audio:

Complete with the original score written by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum and Laura Karpman, the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is truly a gift that silent cinema fans are going to applaud.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Fans of the feature are treated with an informative feature length audio commentary by film critic Farran Smith Nehme.

Special Features:

On top of the 4K restoration, purchasers of this disc get a booklet essay from Film Historian Michael F. Blake, and a fascinating commentary from Farran Smith Nehme.  There is also a fine collection of newsreels, home movie footages, and production stills.

  • Audio commentary by film critic Farran Smith Nehme
  • Booklet essay by film historian Michael F. Blake
  • "Life in Hollywood" newsreel
  • Lon Chaney Home Movie footage
  • Music by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum & Laura Karpman
  • Slideshow of production correspondence
  • Slideshow of production stills

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4.5/5 stars


Film Details

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 4K Restoration

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
133 mins
Director
: Wallace Worsley
Writer:
Perley Poore Sheehan
Cast:
Lon Chaney; Patsy Ruth Miller; Norman Kerry
Genre
: Horror | Romance
Tagline:
Victor Hugo's Immortal Classic.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Why was I not made of stone, like thee?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site: https://www.kinolorber.com/product/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-blu-ray
Release Date:
September 6, 1923
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 28, 2021.
Synopsis: In 15th-century Paris, the brother of the archdeacon plots with the gypsy king to foment a peasant revolt. Meanwhile, a freakish hunchback falls in love with the gypsy queen.

Art

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 4K Restoration

 

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