The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Directed by: Paul Leni
Written by: J. Grubb Alexander, based on L'Homme Qui Rit by Victor Hugo
Starring: Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Olga Baclanova, Brandon Hurst, Cesare Gravina, Josephine Crowell, George Siegmann, Zimbo
About a the young son of a rebellious noble who is disfigured by these gypsies because the king doesn't like him and then grows up to become a traveling sideshow freak, and a hit all across the land. He falls in love with a blind girl and she falls in love with him. And then, for whatever reason, he goes and hangs out with this duchess who is living on the land formerly owned by his father and the only way for her to keep it is to marry him.
So he gets used and abused throughout the movie but ends up with true love in the end (thank God. I don't think I could have handled it if he hadn't. I expected him to end up dead or something and was quite distraught for quite some time).
So actually the thing kind of got to me. His relationship with the blind girl was really touching. And both of them were so adorable (her hair was a little alarming, but that's okay). I mean, yeah, his face was really really distressing looking (a great makeup job, kudos to whoever did it (they're probably dead by now, though). I read somewhere that it was intended for Lon Chaney, but he backed out. Conrad Veidt does a pretty good job though. He's actually quite a good actor. I recognized him as the guy who played Cesare in Caligari (and Mary Philbin played whatever passes as Christine in the Lon Chaney Phantom and Olga Baclanova plays the evil bitch in Freaks (the same role she plays here). Wow, this can be fun)), but he was so... sad.
He managed to play a really sad character even with his face permanently twisted into a smile. Good work, kiddo (he's also dead and doesn't care what I think).
And it's got that great Victor Hugo feel to it. I haven't read to much Hugo (I haven't read this one) but I like him anyway. He's groovy.
Another disturbing thing about this movie, though, were the sound effects. Usually when I watch a silent movie I mute the volume because I can't stand the shitty music they put in there, but most of this was fairly inoffensive, except for the really weird sound effects, but they didn't start until half way through, after I was lulled into some false sense of security.
An odd point is the amount of sex in there for a movie from this particular time period. Olga does a nude scene, even (watch the nerdy young men run to the nearest Blockbuster). It's interesting.
Anyway, even though it was a bit slow getting going, and it sort of went crazy at the end, the middle was really good and it made me feel happy if only temporarily (and in a sad sort of way). I enjoyed it muchly. It was better than The Black Dahlia.