The Man Who Laughs (1928)

The Man Who Laughs (1928)

The Man Who Laughs



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Released with sound effects and a music score that included the song "When Love Comes Smiling" by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack and Erno Rapee, Paul Leni's near masterpiece remains one of the silent era's last great romantic melodramas. Based on Victor Hugo's 1869 novel L'Homme qui Rit, The Man Who Laughs starred German import Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine, a carnival freak doomed to live life wearing a perpetual grin carved on his face by Dr Hardquannone (George Siegman because his father, Lord … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Horror, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Mary McLean, Charles E. Whittaker, Walter Anthony, J. Grubb Alexander
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 30, 2003

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as Wapentake

as Duchess Josiana

as Gwynplaine

as Barkilphedro, the J...

as Dea's "Mother"

as Innkeeper

as James II

as Lord Dirry-Noir

as The Spy

as Gwynplaine as a Chil...

as Lord High Chancellor

as Dr. Hardqucinnone
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Critic Reviews for The Man Who Laughs

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (5)

The Man Who Laughs is a truly great, a devastatingly beautiful film.

Full Review… | October 20, 2014
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

As usual in Hugo, love is measured in sacrifice, yielding a sincere and extravagant sense of romance.

Full Review… | January 8, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Baclanova is amusing as a decadent duchess, but it's Leni's pictorial genius -- aided here by what must have been an enormous budget -- that marks the film as one of the most exhilarating of late silent cinema.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

This production has been fashioned with considerable skill. It is, of course, a gruesome tale in which the horror is possibly moderated but none the less disturbing.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

One of the final treasures of German silent Expressionism.

Full Review… | April 9, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Veidt gives one of cinema's most sensitive and moving performances.

Full Review… | May 17, 2015
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Man Who Laughs

Based on a novel by Victor Hugo, this is the story of Gwynplaine- a nobleman's son who, when he was a child, was kidnapped by a political rival, and disfigured by a gypsy "surgeon" who carves a perpetual smile onto the young boy's face. Finding shelter with a traveling freakshow, Gwynplaine matures into adulthood and falls in love with the beautiful, but blind Dea, who is the only person able to get past his appearance. Eventually Gwynplaine gets drawn back into the world of political intrigue where he finds himself forced to make some really crucial decisions.

Because of Gwynplaine's facial deformity (which also served as the inspiration for Batman's arch nemesis The Joker), and the garish freakshow elements, this film is often thrown in with the horror genre. In reality, it's really just a sweeping melodramatic romance, and a decent one at that.

This was made for Universal, but fits right in with the German Expressionist era that many of the cast and crew got famous in. It features wonderful shadowy cinematography, moody set designs, and some good makeup effects from renowned artist Jack Pierce. It's a silent affair, but has some great music and sound effects to carry it along.

I did enjoy the story, but feel that, at 110 minutes, this is too long. Maybe if this were a talkie this wouldn't be an issue. Since it's silent though, a lot of it feels really drawn out and overblown. I really dug the performances though. Conrad Veidt is terrific as Gwynplaine, and Pierce's makeup effects are pretty snazzy, especially considering when this was made. Mary Philbin is captivating as Dea, and she and Veidt make for a wonderful screen couple. The performances by Olga Baclanova, George Siegmann, and Cesare Gravina are pretty swell as well.

All in all, this is a really good film, but somewhat flawed. Maybe if it were a little tighter my grade would be a bit higher. That said though, I still really enjoyed this, and definitely think you should give it a try.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A great classic movie, I really liked it, it's beautiful. I can tell that many films have been inspired by this story, and it's great to finally see the inspiration. I highly recommend seeing this movie.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

spectacular movie!! Its not so much a horror movie as it is a romance. I ador Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin. They are both great!!

Morgan Salem

Super Reviewer

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