The Man Who Laughs - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Man Who Laughs Reviews

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June 8, 2017
The Joker Is My Favorite Supervillain Of All Time.
½ May 14, 2017
German directors who came to America were to change the American cinema forever and establish it as a domineering cinema.
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.
½ October 5, 2016
Great classic - not as good as Nosferatu but nevertheless a must see towards fans of German expressionism
July 29, 2016
The best silent film I have ever seen. (This film actually had sound, but not "sync" sound. It was in the transitionary phase between silent and sync sound). Sophisticated and brilliant in every aspect. The cinematography, the acting, the story -- all better than anything I had expected. And the rumor is that this was the inspiration for Batman's Joker, which is pretty cool.
March 31, 2016
This intricate and beautiful Gothic romance is so riveting and heartbreaking, I quickly forgot it was a silent film. The community of clowns, kings, and every class in between is colored with such wonderful bigness: big acting, big sets, big plots, and even some big humor. At the center is Conrad Veidt as the title character, who starts as creepy and becomes stunningly heartbreaking, in one of the greatest performances of the silent (or of any) era. A bonafide, 100%, straight-up masterpiece of genre-jumping.
September 26, 2015
one i've been wanting to see for an age now
March 15, 2015
Veidt is remarkable. Hard to believe it's the same man who played Major Strasser!

The ending is gloriously uplifting. Sorry for the 85 year spoiler. :(
January 31, 2015
Wonderfully tragic tale of a disfigured man who falls in love with a blind woman. There is lot of intrigue and twists and turns, but Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine is amazing...despite the permanent smile his eyes show all of his emotion. Brilliant acting and storytelling.
½ December 9, 2014
Where people say that smiling is the best cure for sadness, there's never been a story like this that takes a nice and joyful smile that everybody loves to see and make into a curse for a man for the rest of his years.

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.
November 9, 2014
This horror film from the end Universal's silent period is like the bridge between German Expressionism (the director and lead coming from that period of filmmaking in Germany) and Universal's great age of Monster Movies, which quite frankly drew a lot of inspiration from the German Expressionist films of the silent era. This is really the last Universal Monster film in the silent period, and it features another tragic "monster" based on a French story (like "Hunchback of Notre Dame" this comes from a story by Victor Hugo). Conrad Veidt is great as the Laughing Man, and the story is quite well written and executed, with some great style to boot. Definitely a solid entry from the end of the silent era of filmmaking.
July 4, 2014
Gwynplaine, the inspiration for the Joker... Maybe this talking picture fad is not the way forward after all--Grotesque, Macabre, and Influential Silent Classic... Veidt Leni and Victor Hugo!!
½ April 13, 2014
It's a freaky and cerebral film, certainly for the audience it was intended for but sometimes also for the audience of today. Dark and haunting, generating its fear from the suffering of the protagonists, The Man Who Laughs is ahead of its time, doing things that would not be tried again until the 1930s, or in some cases, the 1940s. It's a long film and it does not do much to try to rectify this, but if you're ready to watch a heavy film you'll be enthralled by the final twenty minutes.
February 1, 2014
Totes freaky. The title character makes Batman's Joker (who he obviously inspired) look like a kiddie toy. But this is far more Victor Hugo than Frank Miller. It might be an obscure Hugo title compared to his big two, but its got all his familiar trademarks: the intense suffering, the repellant vs compelling creepiness and handicaps, the spoilt aristocracy vs. starving common folk, the looming tragedy (although I suspect the ending here is Hollywoodised compared to Hugo's). It drags a bit by today's standards of course, but it's so richly atmospheric and freaky that you shouldn't really care. The early scenes with Gwynplaine as the abandoned kid wandering through the very definition of hell are so well done that the film doesn't reach those compelling heights again.
cosmo313
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2013
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.
October 16, 2013
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.
September 22, 2013
'The Man Who Laughs' is a magnificent film adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel of the same name. This is one of the greatest films that I have seen thus far if not the greatest. The acting is absolutely superb for a film. The main example of this is Conrad Veidt as the forever-smiling Gwynplaine. He shows incredible emotion with only his eyes. That is a marvelous talent to show that much emotion and depth with only the eyes. The scenes with Gwynplaine and Dea are absolutely touching and beautifully done. The make-up and effects to make Conrad Veidt have that large smile are incredible and are still impressive. I absolutely loved the romance between Gwynplaine and Dea. Today, this film is often considered a horror film because of Gwynplaine's smile that frightens a few people that are frightened by the clownish smiles, but if you actually watch this film, you would realize that this is basically a beautiful romance film. Overall, I absolutely loved everything in this film with a great passion.
½ September 13, 2013
Wonderful production values, good performances and a considered soundtrack are not enough to elevate this historically important film above being a fairly pedestrian, at times downright boring melodrama.
July 24, 2013
Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine is terrifying yet tragic.
½ July 24, 2013
One of the indisputable masterpieces of silent cinema.
½ June 3, 2013
I think "The Man Who Laughs" is best known now for serving as the inspiration of The Joker, which of course was one of the reasons I really wanted to see it. While I can't say I was completely blown away by this film, it is really solid. It manages to be unsettling, sad, and surprisingly sweet. The main character, Gwynplaine, seems tailor made for Lon Chaney, and in fact, it was. However Chaney was under contract at MGM and couldn't do the film. Instead, Conrad Veidt plays the disfigured protagonist, and he is perfect. With an unsettling smile permanently on his face, he does so much with just his eyes...his sad, sad eyes. He really did a fantastic job making Gwynplaine an incredibly sympathetic and quite literal "sad clown".

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.
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