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Directed by Paul Leni
USA 1928

 

Flicker Alley, in partnership with Universal Pictures, are proud to present Universal Picture s new 4K restoration of the 1928 silent classic, The Man Who Laughs, accompanied by a newly recorded orchestral score by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, the story centers on the extraordinary adventures of Conrad Veidt s Gwynplaine, whose wide and mirthless grin inspired DC Comics legendary Batman villain, the Joker. Veidt's character has become well known to most cinephiles. Orphaned as a child, Gwynplaine is punished by the king for his father s transgressions, by having face carved into a hideous grin. Disfigured and alone, Gwynplaine rescues a blind girl Dea, and both end up starring in a sideshow where they fall in love. Because she cannot see, Dea does not know about her lover's tormented grin.


Masterfully directed by Paul Leni, The Man Who Laughs marks Leni s penultimate work. Having grown up in Germany during the era of Expressionism, Leni embraces haunting characters, twisted sets, harsh angles, and deep shadows. Heralded as one of the best American silents emulating German Expressionism, The Man Who Laughs presents Leni at his creative directorial peak. Originally released silent, the film was enough of a hit for Universal in 1928 that the studio released it with a synched musical score using the Movietone sound-on-film process, presented here as a secondary audio track.

***

Released with sound effects and a music score that included the song "When Love Comes Smiling" by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack and Erno Rapee, Paul Leni's near masterpiece remains one of the silent era's last great romantic melodramas. 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. Although Kirk Douglas was long interested in producing a remake, The Man Who Laughs was instead filmed again as L'Uomo che Ride by Italian director Sergio Corbucci in 1966. Corbucci, however, changed the setting from Queen Anne to the infamous sixteenth century Italian court of the Borgias.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 27th, 1928

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Review: Flicker Alley - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

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Distribution Flicker Alley - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:50:13.356        
Video

1.2:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,769,119,549 bytes

Feature: 22,333,283,904 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio 1576 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1576 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio 933 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 933 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)

Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Flicker Alley

 

1.2:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,769,119,549 bytes

Feature: 22,333,283,904 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Paul Leni and The Man Who Laughs - A visual essay by film historian and author, John Soister, on Leni's work at Universal during this period. (13:46)
Celebrating Universal’s Masterpiece - A new booklet essay written by renowned film historian and author, Kevin Brownlow.
Notes On the New Score - A short essay by composer Sonia Coronado of the Berklee School of Music on their new score for The Man Who Laughs.
Optional Secondary Audio Track - In addition to the new Berklee Silent Film Orchestra score, the film’s original 1928 Movietone score presented here as a secondary audio track.
Rare Image Gallery - A slide show presentation of vintage marketing materials, trade ads, memorabilia, and more.
Featuring reversible cover artwork

DVD


Blu-ray Release Date:
June 4th, 2019
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 14

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Flicker Alley Blu-ray (May 2019): Flicker Alley bring us a brand new 4k transfer of the 1928 silent (and then not silent-- more on that later) film "The Man Who Laughs". The single-layered Blu-ray holds the 1.2:1 1080p image (shown at 24fps with a modest bitrate). There is a DVD included as well. As per Flicker Alley's notes:

"The primary source element for this restoration was a 35mm composite fine grain from the Universal Pictures vault, created in 1954 from the nitrate original camera negative. NBC Universal's restoration team was able to stabilize and deflicker the film, as well as repair scratches, warps, and dirt. The 4K digital restoration was completed by NBC Universal Studio Post."

The silent film can look a tad unstable in the opening 5-minutes or so, though this ceases to be an issue rather quickly (and this is a common condition for films of this age) but we assume the deflicker improves what the source elements exported. As per the restoration work, it would seem to be rather seamless, which helps to maintain the integrity of the film's appearance. Certain close-up or medium close-up static camera shots reveal a decent amount of detail, while this clarity is not consistent throughout the presentation. Flicker Alley should be commended for their effort to bring this indelible film to
Blu-ray.

There are two audio options here for the running time of the film. The first is new score from the Berklee School of Music. As Flicker Alley states in their notes, " [When "The Man Who Laughs" was] originally released silent, the film was enough of a hit for Universal in 1928 that the studio released it with a synched musical score using the Movietone sound-on-film process, presented here as a secondary audio track." Both audio options are presented in the lossless 24-bit 2.0 DTS-HD Master audio format. Which track suits you best will most likely vary from person to person. I found it quite admirable that the newer compositions maintained a certain fidelity to the original Movietone 'tone', if you will, with similar stylings and beats. Wonderful of Flicker Alley to provide us with a choice of scores. The intertitles appear to be original and are in English. The
Blu-ray disc is Region 'A'-locked as per our system.

Flicker Alley have thankfully provided a number of bonus materials on their
Blu-ray that are well worth checking out. The first is a 14-minute visual essay by film historian and author, John Soister, on Leni's work at Universal during this period. This is an impressively produced extra, that helps to further contextualize the film. "Celebrating Universal’s Masterpiece" is a new booklet essay written by renowned film historian and author, Kevin Brownlow. There are rare image galleries featuring slide show presentations of vintage materials, these galleries are separated into the following categories; "Production Stills", "Behind the Scenes", "Costume / Make-up Tests", "Exhibition / Trade Ads", "Programs / Posters / Heralds", and "Memorabilia". These galleries are more enticing than the typical image gallery fare, with the large number of "The Man Who Laughs" vintage ads showcasing some beautiful artwork, as well as tons of behind-the-scenes photos, magazine articles, sheet music (very cool), and more. Also here are notes on the new score, in a short essay by composer Sonia Coronado of the Berklee School of Music (on their new score for The Man Who Laughs). As mentioned above, in addition to the new Berklee Score, Flicker Alley have also included the choice to watch the film with the film's original 1928 Movietone score. The Blu-ray package also has reversible cover artwork.

Flicker Alley's new 4K digital restoration on
Blu-ray is a sight to behold. Though not always looking shiny and perfect, the film is presented here wisely with warts and all. I Believe that Roger Ebert summed it up best here, "The Man Who Laughs is a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but so steeped in Expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film." I couldn't agree more, the film contains multitudes, though that creepiness is always present. The film would even go on to influence many other artistic endeavors, including the Joker character from Batman, as well as remakes and adaptations (including The Man Who Laughs Sergio Corbucci's "L'Uomo che ride" which was released in the USA as "). Flicker Alley continue to be leaders in such important silent film curation, preservation, and restoration. Kudos to all their fine work. I would recommend this Blu-ray to anyone, especially others (like myself) that adore such films as "The Phantom Carriage" and "Nosferatu".  

Colin Zavitz

 


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Distribution Flicker Alley - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


 


 

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