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Film / The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Three of the most famous Quasimodo actors, top to bottom: Lon Chaney (1923), Charles Laughton (1939), Anthony Quinn (1956)

There have been numerous live-action film adaptations of Victor Hugo's famous novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Among them:

  • The French 1911 black-and-white silent version starring Henry Krauss as Quasimodo and Stacia Napierkowska as Esmeralda. It is now a lost film.
  • The American 1923 black-and-white silent version produced by Universal featured Lon Chaney as Quasimodo.
  • For the 1939 version, click here.
  • The French-Italian 1956 color version produced by Paris Film Productions and Panitalia featured Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo and Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda. It is the closest to the book.
  • The British-American 1982 version produced by Norman Rosemont and Malcolm J. Christopher featured Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo and Derek Jacobi as Frollo.
  • The 1997 television film produced by Stephane Reichel and directed by Peter Medak featured Mandy Patinkin as Quasimodo, Salma Hayek as Esmeralda and Richard Harris as Frollo.
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  • Quasimodo d'El Paris, a 1999 French comedy set in modern day directed by and starring Patrick Timsit as Quasimodo. It also stars Richard Berry as Frollo and Mélanie Thierry as Esmeralda.

These films provide examples of:

  • Adapted Out:
    • Sister Gudule/Paquette only appears in the 1923 film. In all other adaptations (live-action and animated), Esmeralda is a gypsy by birth.
    • Jehan does not appear in either the 1982 or 1997 versions.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the 1923 and 1939 films, Claude Frollo mixes this with Decomposite Character. He is a saintly archdeacon, his villainous role instead given to his brother Jehan.
    • It turns out that Phoebus genuinely loves Esmeralda in the 1923 version. There was some confusion because he still was presented as a womanizer.
    • In the 1997 film, Quasimodo doesn't try to kidnap Esmeralda; instead, he fights off the men Frollo hired to do the deed. Unfortunately, the guards think he's to blame.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Leading to Adaptational Heroism, as above, or Adaptational Villainy.
    • In the book, Quasimodo is rather reclusive, and generally shuns the outside world. In the films, he is usually put in a more sympathetic light, and desires to be accepted by society.
    • The exact opposite usually happens to Frollo. In his book form, he is, for the most part, benevolent but sexually frustrated, and his transformation into a villain is tragic. However, in the films, he is made into an all-out evil, sexually depraved monster from the start.
    • Phoebus gets this treatment as well. In the 1923, the Burbank Films Australia version, and the Disney film, he is put in the role of a heroic love interest for Esmeralda. However, in the book, he was a jerk who was just interested in her for sex.
    • In the novel, Gringoire is a pompous coward who abandons Esmeralda to her fate. In the film versions, he genuinely cares about Esmeralda and does everything he can to secure her release.
  • Age Lift: Fleur-de-lys has never been portrayed as twelve with her either being Esmeralda's or Phoebus' age when she is portrayed on screen.
  • Battering Ram: In all versions, Quasimodo drops a long piece of wood onto the rabble attacking Notre Dame and the rabble use it as an improvised battering ram.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the 1923, 1982 and 1997 versions, Esmeralda is still alive and Frollo has been killed, but Quasimodo is dead.
  • Chronic Villainy: In the 1997 film, after being forced to publicly confess and being forgiven by Quasimodo, a newly reformed Frollo relapses into homicidal madness upon seeing Esmeralda.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the 1997 version, Phobeus is just a nameless guard (Frollo frames Esmeralda for killing a minister who supports the printing press). He has a more sizable role in the 1939 version, but is killed by Frollo halfway through the film.
  • Downer Ending: The 1956 version, which is true to the book's ending.
  • The Grotesque: Quasimodo in all versions. Anthony Quinn's version is by far the least grotesque.
  • Help Mistaken for Attack: In the 1997 version, Quasimodo fights off the men Frollo hires to kidnap Esmeralda. Unfortunately, he does this before the soldiers arrive, so they believe that he's the one at fault, and refuse to listen when Gringoire tells them that Quasimodo is innocent.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: In the 1997 version, Quasimodo holds Frollo over the edge of Notre Dame, in order to make him confess to the murder for which Esmeralda was blamed.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The 1923, 1939, 1956 and 1997 versions feature King Louis XI of France.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Quasimodo does this to Frollo in the 1982 version.
  • Kick the Dog: In the 1956 version, the man who administers Quasimodo's flogging drinks from his pitcher of water, then Jehan Frollo refills it...before placing it only inches away from Quasimodo, who is unable to reach it. Happily, Esmeralda gives him a drink.
  • Murder by Mistake: In the 1997 film, Frollo picks up a dagger to kill Esmeralda; Quasimodo intervenes and is unintentionally and fatally stabbed as a result.
  • Mutual Kill: In the 1923 film, Jehan fatally stabs Quasimodo, but the hunchback manages to throw his master off the ramparts of Notre Dame before succumbing to his wound.
  • The Penance: Frollo whips himself severely several times in the 1997 film, in a vain attempt to curb his desire for Esmeralda.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In the 1939, 1982 and 1997 versions, Gringoire is the one Esmeralda falls in love with.
  • Race Lift: In all adaptations besides the 1923 one, Esmeralda is a Gypsy by birth, rather than being a French girl raised by them.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Quasimodo in the 1939 version, and Esmeralda in the 1923, 1939, 1982 and 1997 versions.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Quasimodo gets flogged in all versions. Frollo does this to himself in the 1997 version.
  • Truer to the Text: The 1956 film is the closest to the book.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Esmeralda is released, the rioters end their siege of Notre Dame and happily escort her through Paris. Their dead and dying comrades are quickly forgotten.


Example of: