The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982)

05/21/2019 06:52

Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Year: 1982

Director: Michael Tuchner

Writer: John Gay

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi and David Suchet



This was a film that I sought out as I really enjoyed the original version of this story that was done as a silent film. I decided to check out the other versions. What was interesting about this one is that it is made for TV movie back in the early 80’s. The synopsis is a disfigured man Quasimodo (Anthony Hopkins) is feared and tormented by the townspeople of Notre Dame, but he has a sensitive nature of which few are aware.

We start this off inside of the church Notre Dame. A hideous baby is found and the nuns believe that there are devils within it. A priest, Dom Claude Frollo (Derek Jacobi) decides to make him his ward and allow him to live in the church. We shift to 15 years later. Frollo is made an archdeacon and he goes around with Philippe (Tim Pigott-Smith). In the city there is a gypsy woman, Esmeralda (Lesley-Anne Down) who is dancing for money and she’s being arrested. When Frollo sees her, he lets her off with a warning.

This day is the start of a festival. One of the most important aspects is crowning the king of fools. Pierre Gringoire (Gerry Sundquist) is a poet who wants to put on a play, but the people aren’t really interested. They are trying to find the ugliest man and that is solved when Quasimodo shows up. He is crowned and then scolded by Frollo. He tells him to go back to the cathedral. Also during this, Esmeralda is forced to dance again by her brother, Clopin Trouillefou (David Suchet) and she is arrested. Frollo intervenes and takes her to Notre Dame.

It is there he comes on to her and she flees. He sends Quasimodo after her. Phoebus (Robert Powell) shows up and takes the hunchback into custody. Esmeralda immediately falls in love with this man. Phoebus tells her to meet him at a tavern later that night. Pierre stumbles into the kingdom of thieves where they are going to execute him. That is until Esmeralda agrees to marry him instead of his life being taken. It is after though she tells him that she doesn’t see him as a lover. She heads off to meet with Phoebus.

Things take a turn when Frollo goes there to kill Phoebus. The crime is blamed on Esmeralda and she is sentenced to death, even though Phoebus survived. Quasimodo does save her from execution, but now she is kept in Notre Dame, Frollo is also inside with them.

Now I will start off stating I debated whether or not to review this film or not. This one toned down the horror quite a bit to focus more on the love story. That is not to say there aren’t horrific elements to the film though. It also does bring up some relevant concepts that are still an issue today as well.

The most glaring one is the right of a woman to choose and the idea of toxic masculinity. Esmeralda falls for Phoebus, because he is good looking and he’s a prominent member of the city guard. Pierre is overall a good guy, but he tells Esmeralda not to go meet him because he is a womanizer. I don’t like that he is forbidding her at first, but it is her decision. He does have the best intentions for her and will treat her right though.

Even more toxic masculinity is Phoebus and Frollo. The former is really a womanizer and just wants to sleep with her. He is committing adultery as well. Frollo is a man of God, but he is in love with the beauty of Esmeralda. The problem here is that he doesn’t take no for an answer and he claims she is a witch for causing him to fall in love. This brings up a big issue I have with religion for sure as he can’t take any responsibility for his actions.

It is also a shame though that Quasimodo looks the way he does. He really treats her best, outside of trying to kidnap her because he is told to by Frollo. Quasimodo is convicted of a crime against her and when she shows compassion, he does the same. I do have an issue with this film that we don’t get as much Quasimodo as I would like. The story is about him, but this one focuses quite a bit more on this love issue between all of the parties I outlined.

Being that this is a television film, I do think it has some pretty good pacing. I never got bored with what was going on, even though it is a story that I already know. The tension of the film is built through the torture of Esmeralda and just the dread all of these men as they push their will on to her. She is just trying to make money and surviving in the only ways that she can. The failing of the courts is something else that adds to that as well. I liked the ending and though it was fitting for the story that we got.

Something I thought was really good for this one was the acting. Hopkins doesn’t have a lot of lines, but I can see why he is a master at the craft. He conveyed the character so well and I thought the way he moved and spoke were perfect of a character like this. Jacobi was solid and I love the corruption of religion that happens with him the moment he sees Esmeralda. The interesting thing is that he did do a good deed of taking in Quasimodo. It doesn’t excuse him, but we do get that redeeming factor. Suchet was fine as was Sundquist. Down was quite beautiful and I thought her portrayal of Esmeralda was solid. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed as well.

To the effects of the film, they did go pretty light on them. This one doesn’t really need a whole lot to be honest. The look of Quasimodo was good. I thought it was pretty realistic. I do like it was done practical. That comes from the time period, but if done today, it would probably be CGI. The torture scene of Esmeralda did make me cringe so I give credit there. I do think the film was shot well also.

Now with that said, I thought this film was fine. It isn’t as good as the other two versions I’ve seen at this time though. I think some of the aspects of the story that were taken out hurts this one. This one focuses more on the love angle instead of the social commentary of science vs. religion. The acting though is good and the little effects we get are as well. It is paced well also. The soundtrack of the film really didn’t stand out and it didn’t hurt it either. I did find this version to be enjoyable, just not better than some of the others one. I would actually recommend this if you want one that is a bit lighter on the horror as I do think this one is above average overall.


My Rating: 7 out of 10