Carl Laemmle

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The Man Who Laughs Review


Good
The model for all the great Universal horror to follow, 1928's The Man Who Laughs is a (now) rarely seen silent picture that aficionados of the genre might want to get their hands on. Based on the Victor Hugo story, and designed to capitalize on the recent successes of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, The Man Who Laughs is really more of a melodrama than a horror film, but it's a melodrama dripping with German Expressionist technique (director Paul Leni and star Conrad Veidt were imported from Germany for the job), and, like the two horror films above and a myriad that followed, it has a horribly disfigured hero at its center.

How disfigured? Think Joker. Gwynplaine (Veidt) is a member of royalty in England circa King James II who is abducted from his father as a little boy for political reasons and left in the "care" of the Comprachicos, a band of gypsies among whose ranks we find a surgeon named Hardquanonne. Gwynplaine escapes, but not before this surgeon has performed a ghastly procedure on him, leaving him with a permanent, eerie grin cut across his face. He becomes a successful circus clown ("The Man Who Laughs") performing with a woman named Dea (Mary Philbin), whom he loves and whose claim to fame is that she is both beautiful and blind. The Countess Josiana takes an interest in him when she sees him perform; as Gwynplaine's noble roots are uncovered, a scandal is born, and the story takes a Dickensian turn before ending in the kind of rampage that any member of the Frankenstein household could tell you all about.

Continue reading: The Man Who Laughs Review

The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) Review


Very Good
The original 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera gets a touch-up with a modern Goth-inspired soundtrack from the band Switchblade Symphony.

The film remains the same: Lon Chaney stars as the hideously disfigured title character, who lives in the old dungeons below the Paris Opera House. The Phantom becomes obsessed with one of the opera's singers, threatening the management if she is not given the lead role in Faust. Of course, the management refuses and disaster strikes. A witch-hunt eventually ensues after the girl is kidnapped. The film has been remade and remade again, and it's of course been a much-beloved Broadway musical as well.

Continue reading: The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) Review

Carl Laemmle

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