Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Man Who Laughs (1928) review


This silent horror taking place in medieval times still unnerves today with beautiful cinematography, touching performances, and a sense of being ahead of its time.

PLOT:Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt) was kidnapped as a child because of a political fight between two royal families and sold to a notorious group of people who surgically disfigure his face, leaving it in a twisted, contorted smile. After walking a while, Gwynplaine finds a baby lying next to her deceased mother in the cold. The two wander the area until they discover a philosopher named Ursus (Cesare Gravina) who takes them in. Years later as an adult, Gwynplaine and now-grown Dea (Mary Philbin) travel with Ursus in a theater show entitled "The Man Who Laughs". However, the Duchess of this area (Olga Baclanova) may have her eye set on Gwynplaine as a lover, which could affect his life and love for Dea; not to mention, Gwynplaine is getting sick of the laughter and pressure of being a circus freak. What will this all boil down to? It's a great plot executed brilliantly.

ACTING:The performances in this film are very excellent. Conrad Veidt plays a very touching and convincing part as the forever-scarred Gwynplaine. His performance unnerved me and evoked plenty strong emotion in me, as well as Cesare Gravina as Ursus. His performance nearly made me cry near the end. Most of the performance in here were really great for a silent film. The female leads of Mary Philbin as the blind Dea and Olga Baclanova as the loose Duchess Josiana were just as good as well. The other performances I'd like to mention would be Brandon Hurst as Barkilphedro, Stuart Holmes as Lord Dirry-Moir, George Siegmann as Dr. Hardquononne, and Sam De Grasse as King James II.

SCORE:The score in here was pretty nice. Since it's a silent film, the score has to carry the main sound for the film. The score seemed to match the mood fairly well while keeping a partially-relaxed tone. It wasn't anything too special, but I appreciated it.

OTHER CONTENT:This film was a beautiful silent horror throughout. The cinematography and the way each shot was taken was just beautiful and caught the moment just right, setting the mood and tone for many certain emotions. Also, this film seemed to be actual ahead of its time. Not only was it a pretty scary and meaningful film at the time, covering the lessons of acceptance and fitting in, but it also included spoken dialogue and brief nudity in a time of silents and purity. I felt this film was a big step in breaking the barrier of silent film and the purity era. This film was just a beauty much overlooked these days by the bigger name horror silents like Nosferatu and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as many others, but it's nothing to look over for a true film buff.

OVERALL,an epic horror silent with an brilliantly-done plot, excellent performances, fairly good silent film score, beautiful cinematography, the ability to still scare today, a few good common lessons, and an overall feel that the film was truly ahead of its time.

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