Friday, October 12, 2007

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

On Thursday I went to The organ loft for a special sneak preview of the new transfer of Lon Chaney’s 1923 classic, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. This version will be the best available version of the film when it is released on Tuesday the 16th. After the silent era ended the studios did not think that the silent films had any value so they were either burned, or stuffed in studio vaults where they were improperly stored. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was one of the unlucky films to be thrown into the fire. It was discovered later as a poor quality 16mm print. 16mm prints were often used in schools or for people’s home use. The trouble is, with most 16mm prints they are cropped in a way that it cuts a portion of the picture out. This is what previous DVD editions were struck from. A 35mm print was discovered and that is what they have used for this new edition. It looks far superior then the 1999 release. The picture is bigger, the speed has been corrected, and it is in the correct color tinting. Some scratches still exists but there are moments of clarity and over all it is a very good print. Lon Chaney was one of the best actors in the silent era. His face held so much expression. You can literally understand a whole world of emotion from one raise of an eyebrow. In the scene when Esmeralda is dancing and Quasimodo turns around in disgust, it is probably one of the most impressive and moving moments in film history. Chaney was a child of deaf mute parents so the man had non-verbal communication down to a T. The organ loft was fun too. It was my first time their and I must say it is amazing. The pipes are all around you; you almost feel as if you have sat down to watch a movie in a giant organ. They are showing Chaney’s version of “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925) next week. I will definitely be there.

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