The Man Who Laughs Reviews
Another amazing example (one of the last) of German expressionism, a story about a mutilated boy who grew up to be a clown but who had a soul of gold. This performance of Conrad Veidt allegedly inspired the character of Joker.
The ending is gloriously uplifting. Sorry for the 85 year spoiler. :(
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 Clancharlie (Allan Cavan), had offended England's King James II (Sam De Grasse). Taken in as a child by Ursus, a mountebank (Cesare Gravina), Gwynplaine grows up alongside the beautiful but blind Dea (Mary Philbin). They fall in love but Gwynplaine refuses to marry her because his hideous face makes him feel unworthy. Queen Anne (Josephine Crowell), meanwhile, has ascended the throne and when she learns from her predecessor's evil jester Barkilphedro (Brandon Hurst) that the recalcitrant Duchess Josiana (Olga Baclanova) is in possession of Lord Clancharlie's estates, she decrees that the royal femme fatale must marry Gwynplaine, the rightful heir. Josiana, who has caught Gwynplaine's act incognito and arranged a rendezvous, is at the same time sexually attracted to and repelled by the "Laughing Man," but Gwynplaine, who realizes that the duchess' attraction has legitimized his right to love Dea, renounces his title and follows his heart to the new World.
We have seen many movies and stories where we have seen different kind of extraordinary people and the usual people give out a smile, good or bad, like a superhero users a smile to welcome people of the city and show that he comes in peace, but a villain gives out a smile when his doing something wrong or just loves playing bad. But what about a story about man that has a very usual gift that he views it as a curse, that not everybody as thought off before, even I didn't thought of it. His not a bad guy and his not a hero as well, his just a guy trying to make the best out of life but the smile that sticks on his face that courses all this attention really gives Gwynplaine (Main character) a hard and difficult life.
The Man Who Laughs is a silent film that very cleverly get's it's message and it's story across very well and this a silent film with no sound at all and I still felt emotional for the character's in the film.
Conrad Veidt played Gwynplanie and through out the film he had a lot of make-up on his face for the effect of the big smile for his character; it must have been really difficult for him to show any emotion by all that make-up, but he nailed it by showing as much emotion as he can by simply his eyes which people say "The eyes are the windows to the soul", and I felt it all that in his eyes, just like Bane from The Dark Knight Rise who had a mask that covered half of his face and still can be scary and the kind of guy that nobody mess with, all by his eyes and Conrad Veidt also did the same thing.
All the cast did a great job in their roles and Olga Baclanova can play a right nasty bitch but she did it really well. The directing is really good allowing some really impressive and heart felt moments that the cast and the director got right.
My only my problems with the film is that at times it dragged a little bit in some parts, and that's really it for problems.
Overall The Man Who Laughs is a freaking fantastic movie with scenes that really played with my heart strings.
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.
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.
The rest of the cast is quite good too. Mary Philbin is well cast as the blind love interest of Gwynplaine, a role similar to the one she played a few years earlier in "The Phantom of the Opera". I guess she just had a penchant for the unlovables. Also really effective is Brandon Hurst as the scheming Barkilphedro. The man just unnerves you every minute he's on screen.
The film looks great, too. You can really see the groundwork for a lot of the early Universal horror films here. The nightmarish sets really set the tone for the film. If you love films like "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" and you've never seen "The Man Who Laughs" you might want to check it out.
I can't say I love this film as much as I thought I might, but it is very good, and I'm glad I saw it.