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on March 17, 2014
Blackhawk Films has moved distribution over to Flicker Alley and this new HD transfer shows much improvement over the pervious, still good, Image DVD.

To understand this presentation, I will give a brief history lesson. In the 1920's 35mm was on Nitrate film but 16mm was on safety film.
Universal Pictures fortunately saw a value in the secondary markets and created a 16mm home movie division called "Universal Show At Home". These 16mm safety films were created directly from the 35mm Nitrate Negatives. The original tints from the 35mm theatrical run were also used in these early 16mm home movie prints. The print for this Blu-ray was manufactured in 1926.
Sadly when Sound Films over-threw Silent Films Universal, as well as many other studios, saw no value in their library of silent Nitrate films and had them destroyed. Many films that had not made it to the home movie market were lost.

The only surviving materials for this title are the 16mm tinted prints.

THE VIDEO QUALITY: While 16mm is not as sharp as 35mm, with the proper scanning it can give a very good Blu-ray image. And here it does. This is the best quality 16mm HD scan I have seen. Many times I felt I was watching a 35mm print. Since these early 16mm prints were made directly from the 35mm Nitrate Negative they are much sharper than the conventional 16mm prints that were made for Television (TV prints were made from 16mm safety negatives). It is apparent that by 1926 the original 35mm Nitrate negatives had suffered some wear in their brief 3 years of existence. Small white negative scratches & blemishes can be seen in many scenes. These were already in the negative in 1926, Flicker Alley's Press Release claims that "Visible Wear in the source material is diminished with a moderate amount of digital restoration." The film does not look like it was attacked by DNR, so their moderate amount keeps the details in the image.
The Image is quite stable with few jumps & sways. I imagine some image stabilization was used.
The sharpness varies. Outdoor shots look quite sharp like a 35mm print would be. But indoor shots tend to be a little softer. That is the nature of the original 16mm film print. I doubt we will see anything better until a lost 35mm print is uncovered.

THE AUDIO QUALITY: This is a modern soundtrack, not a vintage Victor recording (there was non for this film) so it sounds crisp & clear. The score was arranged by Donald Hunsberger, conducted by Robert Israel, and the orchestra was recorded in the Czech Republic. It seems a but too happy and not representative of what most audiences would have heard in 1923.

THE BONUS MATERIAL: Most of the bonus material from Blackhawk's old DVD distributed by Image Entertainment has been carried over here. All are in standard definition except the photo gallery which has been re-scanned in "Dynamic HD". The 20 page souvenir program is a digital reproduction on the disc.

Missing from the previous DVD are the 3-D original stills! I will have to keep my old DVD just for these.

THE MOVIE: This Lon Chaney version is still THE best movie version of this story. And it is the film that put Universal up with the other major studios. This was officially a "Universal Super-Jewel" picture, which meant that Universal spent a lot on the production for a quality movie. Sure the acting in silent films tends to be over-done, expressions fill in for the missing sound, but Lon Chaney IS the best hunchback.

Until a 35mm nitrate print turns up, or technology develops to remove white negative wear without compromising the details in the picture, this is the best there is!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon April 18, 2014
When a new DVD or Bluray release arrives from the folks at Flicker Alley I know I'm in for something "special" to watch, whether it is a series of silent Chaplin films in great prints with new music scores (and I here another volume is coming soon) or even the re-release of the Cinerama films from the 1950s. And the bonuses always add to the enjoyment and educational aspects of early film history.

This latest release is no exception. The 1923 silent version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" starring Lon Chaney is a classic. There appear to be no surviving 35 mm prints so this new restoration comes from a16mm print taken from the original in 1926. It has a new score as well. Even though the image is not as sharp as we are used to, it's Chaney's acting that keeps us interested.

Yes, there are some visual bonuses on this release - a very brief clip of Chaney, out of costume, visiting the set, and 1915 film which also featured Chaney as a hunchback. There is also what is billed as an HD Photo Gallery with 100 production and publicity stills. But, what I feel makes this a "film history course on DVD" is the full length commentary by Chaney Scholar Michael Blake. He is not only knowledgeable but his commentary is entertaining as well. And since this is a silent film you can watch with the commentary on the first time you play the film, and you won't miss any of the dialogue (which, of course, is on title cards!).

Want more? There is a beautifully printed 12 page booklet enclosed with photos and an essay by Blake. And did I mention that the disc itself has a digital reproduction of the original Souvenir Program from the film's "road show".

Note that this is a BLURAY release only and will not play on a standard DVD Player.

Highly recommended for film buffs everywhere.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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on March 15, 2014
Victor Hugo's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME has had several screen adaptations, but there's still a lot to be said for the 1923 Universal silent production starring the great Lon Chaney.

Chaney's performance as the deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo is a triumph of pantomime that emerges from behind arduously applied makeup. Chaney based his appearance exclusively on the illustrations in Hugo's novel, and his sensitivity and bodily contortions combine to make the physically ugly Quasimodo a genuinely sympathetic character.

Chaney is ably supported by a fine cast: Pretty Patsy Ruth Miller is memorable as Esmeralda, the gypsy whom Quasimodo hopelessly loves, Norman Kerry as Esmeralda's hero Phoebus, Ernest Torrence as Clopin, formidable leader of the beggars, and Brandon Hurst as Jehan, the evil cleric who lusts for Esmeralda. All were guided under the direction of Wallace Worsley, although Patsy Ruth Miller has said that Chaney had a hand in directing portions as well.

Just a thought about the acting: Silent films utilized pantomime in place of spoken dialog in order to communicate and express emotion. As such, it was perfectly suited to its purpose, requiring a complex combination of body control, concentration, and style on the part of the actor. There is nothing flawed or inferior about this kind of acting; it was merely an alternative method of performing that became a lost art with the advent of sound. HUNCHBACK shows why Lon Chaney is widely regarded as the finest practitioner of silent film acting technique.

The film's period authenticity is truly something to marvel at, even 91 years later. The sets representing 15th century Paris were meticulously designed and constructed and artfully photographed, so as to convey further the appearance of scale. So much filmmaking today is achieved digitally, that it becomes quite easy to appreciate the level of real craftsmanship that went into HUNCHBACK.

The splendor of this film can now be enjoyed more fully with Flicker Alley's beautiful Blu-ray edition. Presented in association with the Blackhawk Film Collection, HUNCHBACK has been mastered from a tinted, 16mm print struck in 1926 from the original camera negative. This HD transfer eclipses the 2007 Image DVD in every way, and features a fabulous score (the same one on Image's DVD) compiled by Donald Hunsberger and conducted by Robert Israel that adds greatly to the magnificence of the film.

Extras include an informative audio commentary and booklet essay by Chaney biographer Michael F. Blake; footage of Chaney out of makeup on the set; the 1915 film, ALAS AND ALACK, with Chaney as a hunchback character; an extensive HD photo gallery; and a digital reproduction of the original souvenir program.

Every lover of silent films should not hesitate in picking up this wonderful edition of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME - I give it my highest recommendation.
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on April 29, 2014
This Blu Ray is yet another restoration of this classic Lon Chaney Sr-Universal production. As all original 35mm materials appear to be lost now this Blu Ray is remastered & restored from an original 16mm home movie version struck from the original 35mm negatives in the late 1920s.

Whilst there is a lot of lines here and there, as could be expected, the image is sharp and the best it has ever looked. That it is from 16mm could not be detected. The score is a delight to listen to.

There is also an extensive booklet supplied in the package and some extra bits & pieces of film.

The 1939 RKO-Radio release of the Charles Laughton sound version is a good match and would make a perfect double film collection.
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on March 14, 2014
Flicker Alley's new Blu-Ray release of the 1923 Lon Chaney HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is an HD upgrade of the Image 2007 DVD "Ultimate Edition". My thanks to David Shepard and Blackhawk Films for having the source 16mm print and kudos to everyone responsible for making it look like this. It is unquestionably the best looking HUNCHBACK that I have ever seen and I've seen numerous versions. While there is no significant new footage, the film has been speed corrected and lots of scratches have been digitally cleaned up though not eliminated. This is an important point to note. Some will complain about the quality of the image (especially on Blu-Ray) but considering the source material, this is about as good as it's going to be without a 35mm print available.

What keeps it from being truly definitive is the music. Being the same as the 2007 version, I still have issues with the soundtrack. Although the score by Donald Hunsberger is good in and of itself, some of the music seems rather incongruous. Often it is too lighthearted and not sombre enough to enhance what's going on during the movie in certain sequences. Esmeralda's dancing in the opening and her rescue by Phoebus sound more like 19th century Vienna than 15th century France while the music for the climactic mob attack sounds like a Sousa march. A darker score like the one Ennio Morricone did for the 1912 RICHARD III (or the old 1999 Medieval score) would help to reduce the melodramatic elements of the story and some of the performances.

Lon Chaney remains a marvel as Quasimodo, fully inhabiting the character beneath the makeup and the natural speed transfer restores his performance to what it should be. Patsy Ruth Miller is a sincere Esmeralda, Norman Kerry is in training for his PHANTOM OF THE OPERA role and veteran silent heavy Brandon Hurst is a despicable villain. Ernest Torrence is a striking Clopin and Gladys Brockwell makes the most of her brief but key madwoman part. The large scale medieval sets and vast army of extras also continue to inspire awe 80+ years later. Those sets remained in use on the Universal backlot for over 40 years until a fire destroyed them in 1967.

In addition to the Blu-Ray disc you also get an original program reproduction, an information booklet, numerous production stills, and commentary from Chaney scholar Michael F. Blake. So fans of Lon Chaney and HUNCHBACK be sure to rush out and get this edition for your personal collection. Congratulations to Flicker Alley and Film Preservation Associates on another job well done. Now if only the original 1925 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (not the 1929 reissue) could get this kind of treatment, then the Angel of Music would be back where he belongs and admirers of Lon Chaney's second best performance would have something else to celebrate.
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on February 20, 2016
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame"(1923) was directed by Carl Laemmle. This silent film is the story of 15th century Paris and the hunchback (Lon Chaney) who lived in the Notre Dame cathedral, and Esmeralda, who was a woman who as a child was kidnapped and ended up living among the vagrants of the city not knowing who her true parents were. This film represented a big turning point for Universal films, and made a huge profit for the studio. Up until then Universal had been one of the smaller film companies. This movie was filmed entirely on the sets of Universal Studios where the exact duplicates of the Notre Dame cathedral and street scenes were filmed.

This movie has been restored from an old 16mm print that had been struck in 1926 from the original camera negative so it won't look as sharp as today's movies on blu-ray. It still looks rough, as if one is looking through rain, so one shouldn't expect a pristine picture. Contrast isn't super high overall either, however, this is evidently the best restoration yet of the film. This set comes with a twelve page booklet with a history of the film. Special features include "Alas Alack" a 1915 (13 minute film) with Lon Chaney where he also plays a hunchback, an audio commentary with Michael Blake, some short rare footage of Chaney out of costume, a digital reproduction of the original souvenir program, and an HD photo gallery with production and publicity stills.
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on June 15, 2016
This is certainly a great transfer of a great Chaney film. I was so excited to see it appear on blu-ray but my disc is fading out with a cloudy play surface and the paint from the label is beginning to bleed through into the playing surface. The paint must contain an acid that is eating it's way into the disc. Laser rot. Those who have purchased it should check their disc for damage. I was shocked and disappointed when I discovered the damage on mine.I loved this transfer and love this movie. Too bad.
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on July 16, 2015
Great to have, but the restoration is a little iffy, probably due to the age of the material. Still, it's a must for serious film buffs
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on January 30, 2015
It's great and does not look that much better than my Dvd copy by Image entertainment.
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on October 9, 2015
great classic
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