The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is one of the oldest movie monsters in the world of cinema, only behind the likes of Frankenstein’s Monster, Vampires and Witches to name a few. Over the years, many amazing films have been made about his deeds to save a young gypsy from the crooked arms of the law and church with the most popular being the 1923 version starring Lon Chaney Sr. as Quasimodo aka the Hunchback. But one of the most respected versions of the film came in 1956 and was a French and Italian production that brought together actors Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida as the main leads. And with this version came a very cool comic book adaptation done by Dell Comics in order to promote the movie and make a few coins while selling copies. And with this we will be having a “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” update all about this amazing film! I should also remind, and I am sure most of you never forget, that all the films based on the Hunchback of Notre Dame are based on the 1831 novel of the same name written by Victor Hugo. So if you’re ready let’s take a look at one of the world’s most classic movie monsters who in fact is no monster at all, it’s the cruel people around him that are the true monsters!
Before we take a look at the 1956 production we should come to understand the misunderstood “monster” of the film Quasimodo and the ways he deals with those who are evil and cruel. Quasimodo in this version is simple minded with his speech being bad. He has some strength and is easily told what to do by those he trusts. His means of dealing with people who stand in his friends’ or his way is the following: his appearance is deformed and it seems to shock those who look at him causing hysterics, he uses large stones, wood beams and even hot boiling metal that he drops from high above his Church home! He also will use his bare hands to throw humans off the roofs as well. Quasimodo also can use this knowledge of the Church itself to his advantage when it comes to fighting off his enemies. He also has a very high tolerance for pain making him very hard for people to hurt. But Quasimodo does have weaknesses as he is a normal man who can easily have his feelings hurt and can be killed with any manner of weapons like a sword or arrow. He is also very easy to confuse, and if you are a beautiful woman, he can be controlled and tricked. While Quasimodo might not be the most powerful nor even the most deadly we have covered on a From Horror Movie To Horror Comic update, he is one that is a force to be tangled with when he thinks those he cares about are in danger.
So as you can see, Quasimodo in this version is not super bloodthirsty unless you mess with the love of his life and then he would attack like a savage. But now that he have looked at the Hunchback Of Notre Dame himself we should now dive into the film he is from and chat about it. As always I will be taking the film’s write up from our pals at IMDB and it will be followed by some production chat and then some brief memories and thoughts I have on the film. So I hear some bells ringing in the distance so I think that’s our cue to take a look at the 1956 version of Hunchback Of Notre Dame!
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1956)
“Paris, 1482. Today is the festival of the fools, taking place like each year in the square outside Cathedral Notre Dame. Among jugglers and other entertainers, Esmeralda, a sensuous gypsy, performs a bewitching dance in front of delighted spectators. From up in a tower of the cathedral, Frollo, an alchemist, gazes at her lustfully. Later in the night, Frollo orders Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer and his faithful servant, to kidnap Esmeralda. But when the ugly freak comes close to her is touched by the young woman’s beauty.”
Producers Raymond Hakim and Robert Hakim teamed up with director Jean Delannoy to bring the Victor Hugo story Hunchback Of Notre Dame to cinemas for the first time in color! The film was an Italian and French production, and it followed a very sword and sandal style of filming as those films were very popular at the time. The film’s two leads Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida were the only two who spoke English and the rest of the cast all spoke French and were dubbed over to play western theaters. The film’s production was for the most part pretty smooth, and the budget of the film was $1 million dollars. The film brought in $2.25 million in the US making it a success for distributer Allied Artist Pictures. The film was also the first to more closely follow the novel and has the character Esmeralda die in the tragic ending. Anthony Quinn who played Quasimodo is also known for being in such classic films as Lawrence Of Arabia, Last Action Hero and Avenging Angelo to name a very few and was on TV shows like Hercules And The Legendary Journeys and the Cosby Show. While the lovely Gina Lollobrigida is known for her roles in films like Beat The Devil and Death Laid An Egg. The film is well respected by film critics as well as film lovers and is truly a well made film.
I first saw this film when I was a youngster and it was on regular TV and can remember enjoying it as I have always been a fan of the tale of the Hunchback as he is truly a misunderstood man who people think a fool and a monster. I can still see in my mind the bright colors of this film and can remember thinking even as a kid that Gina Lollobrigida looked beautiful. And while I enjoyed this film, I never did own it until 2018 when I ordered it on DVD from Ebay…and that’s shocking as I have collected Horror Movies on VHS and DVD/Blu-Ray for many years and am a true sucker for classic monsters. And to be honest, I know why I didn’t own this film and just recently re-watched it after all these years and that’s because I forgot all about it as the film oddly fell out of the light and was not shown on cable nor was the home media release easy to get. The one thing that always stuck out to me about this film was the fact that the horror aspects are very much downplayed and the drama is turned up on high, not to mention even the look of Quasimodo is downplayed with less deformities and even his back is not as humped like in other film adaptations and is more just curved. But while the film is by no means scary, it is a great watch and is another great film released about the world’s favorite bell ringer. There’s not much more to say about this film besides if you have an extra 2 hours and enjoy the Hunchback, I recommend checking this one out.
We are now at the point of this From Horror Movie To Horror Comic update where we will talk about the comic adaptation of the film. This one was done by Dell Comics as part of their Four Color comic series that featured fun comics based on not only movies but also TV shows and cartoons. I want to thank an Ebay seller for having this comic in stock and making this update possible as well as my gal Juliet who ordered this comic for me. And before the bells start ringing, I want to remind you that I will be grading this comic on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the issue stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s join Quasimodo and see if this comic captures the magic of the film.
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame # 1 **1/2
Released in 1957 Cover Price .10 Dell Comics # 854 of 1354
It’s the Feast Of Fools in Paris, and the town’s people of Notre Dame are drunk and rowdy and are even ruining the play done by Pierre Gringoire. When it comes to picking the King Of Fools, they disturb Church Archdeacon Claude Frollo with their noisy ways and he sends hunchbacked, deaf and deformed Quasimodo to ruin the throne. During the celebration, gypsy Esmeralda and her pet goat Djali are singing and dancing in the town square and has captured the attention of all the males in the crowd as she is beautiful. And then comes the time to choose the King Of Fools, an honor given to the ugliest man in Paris, and thanks to Esmeralda the crown goes to Quasimodo who soaks up all the attention. But as always, the stick in the mud Claude Frollo orders Quasimodo to follow him and wants him to kidnap Esmeralda and bring her to the church! But as Quasimodo does what he is ordered, he is stopped and captured by the King’s guards lead by Captain Phoebus who leads Esmeralda away where the two hit it off before Esmeralda runs off into the night. Meanwhile poor poet and play writer Pierre Gringoire is mugged and set to be hung by the gypsies but is saved by Esmeralda who agrees to take him as a husband for four years. The next day Claude is visited by the King who wants the Archdeacon to use alchemy to make gold as Paris needed more riches, after they talk they watch as Quasimodo is whipped and is shown mercy by Esmeralda who gives him water. And later that night the soon to be married Captain Phoebus meets Esmeralda at an inn, little do they know they are being watched by Archdeacon Claude who has as well fallen in love with the gypsy girl and he uses her own dagger to sneak and stab Phoebus in the back leaving her under arrest and the Captain shamed for cheating on his fiancé. The next day Esmeralda is tortured to confess she is a witch and is set to be hung, but Quasimodo saves her and brings her into the church where she is safe from the laws of man. While in the church, Quasimodo and Esmeralda become friends and she learns that Archdeacon Claude is a cruel man who wants her dead for she does not return his feelings of love and has convinced the King to go into the church and remove Esmeralda to pay for her crimes. When news spreads, the Gypsy rush the church to save her and are attacked by Quasimodo who believes they are there to hurt her. In the end the Kings men show up and kill Esmeralda with an arrow! Quasimodo in a rage throws Archdeacon Claude from the top church window ending this sad tale.
This Dell Comic Four Colors issue does its best to try and cram an almost two hour movie into pages of a comic book. The main story is intact with Quasimodo falling in love with Esmeralda and wanting to protect her because she also showed him compassion when he was in need of help and a friend. But many moments from the film are missing like the build up of Captain Phoebus healing from his stabbing and turning his back fully on Esmeralda when she asks for him to meet her at the church. It also changes the ending and does not have Quasimodo going to the crypt where Esmeralda’s body is and dying next to her of sadness. It also has Archdeacon Claude begging not to be thrown from the church, but in the movie, he embraces his death and does not say a word as he wanted to die. One other change this comic makes is that Quasimodo uses his fists and punches lots of people in the face and uses brute strength. So while it has most of the core of the film, it does change lots making it feel a little off as far as a full adaptation, but it is a great read for fans of the story and the 1956 feature. Quasimodo in this comic is a man with a big heart who allows love to guide him to do what’s right. The sad part is he knows he is “ugly” and the people of town treat him really badly and tease and mock him. Esmeralda is a gypsy who everyone loves as she as well has a big heart and is stunning to look at and wants to always do the right thing. Her only flaw is how good looking she is as she gets the attention of a Hunchback, a Captain, a Poet and an Archdeacon, and this becomes her downfall. Archdeacon Claude Frollo is a man of not only the church but also science who is not a good person as he would rather a woman he has a crush on die than to not return his feelings and be his. This comic has a few moments of violence but is bloodless and really feels like a Drama/History/Horror story with the latter being the most down played. The cover for this comic is a photo from the movie and is pretty cool and eye catching for fans of the film. The interior art is done by an unknown artist and is pretty good classic 60’s style art and very loosely looks like the actors from the film. Over all this is a cool comic based around one of cinemas classic movie monsters. Check out the art below to see how this comic looks.
So while Hunchback Of Notre Dame from 1956 might be more drama than horror, it’s still a very cool film based on a classic monster movie character that spawned a comic book from those crazy folks at Dell. And while Quasimodo aka The Hunchback Of The Notre Dame might not be as brutal as Uber Jason from Jason X, as silent and deadly as Michael Myers from Halloween or even as menacing as Tall Man from Phantasm, he still has the skills to kill, and while he is not a bad guy, he is a killer. For our next update, we are leaving the world of Horror and Notre Dame far behind and heading toward the world of DC Comics to take a look at another hero they barely use as a main character, and that’s The Atom! So until next time, read a Horror Comic or three, watch a Horror Movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next time for a micro hero good time.