The lecherous Chief Justice Frollo (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) gazes on a beautiful, gypsy girl, Esmeralda (Maureen O’Hara), and sends the deformed bellringer of Notre Dame Cathedral Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) to catch her. But Quasimodo himself is captured by Phoebus, Captain of the Guards, who frees Esmerelda and sentences Quasimodo to be flogged. Whilst Quasimodo is tied up in the square, only Esmerelda takes pity on him and gives him water. Later, at a party of nobles, Esmeralda again meets both Frollo, who is bewitched by her, and Phoebus; but when Phoebus is found stabbed to death, Esmeralda is accused of his murder, convicted by the court and sentenced to hang. Only Quasimodo, can save her from the gallows…
For many Lon Chaney’s 1923 screen incarnation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame remains ‘the ultimate triumph of horror-spectacle’, and he certainly earned his place in movie history with his tour de force acting and incredible make-up. But the definitive screen Quasimodo surely belongs to Charles Laughton: ‘a frog-hopping, tongue-lolling, eye-rolling gargoyle, yet human enough to break your heart’ in this classic 1939 screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, which is now out on DVD (featuring an unrestored print on the film) from OEG (Odeon Entertainment).
To read more about the film, it’s history and Laughton’s incredible performance (click here)