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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Hunchback of Notre Dame [Blu-ray]


(William Dieterle, 1939)


  Also part of the Golden Year - 1939 Collection [Blu-ray] that includes; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Dodge City, and Gone With the Wind.


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: RKO Radio Pictures

Video: Warner Video



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:56:42.954

Disc Size: 34,491,792,018 bytes

Feature Size: 31,555,215,360 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.90 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 9th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


DTS-HD Master Audio English 821 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 821 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio German 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB



English (SDH), French, German, Spanish, none



• NEW! The Lone Stranger and Porky - Vintage 1939 WB Cartoon (7:26)
Drunk Driving – Vintage 1939 MGM Short (21:28)
Interview with Maureen O'Hara (12:09)
Theatrical Trailer (1:50)





Description: Charles Laughton endured a daily five-and-a-half-hour makeup session to become Quasimodo, the mocked and vilified bellringer of Notre Dame. The result was one of his best performances: outsized yet nuanced, heartrending yet inspiring. Maureen O'Hara is the gypsy Esmeralda, whose simple act of pity frees the emotions within him. When she is wrongly condemned, he rescues her from hanging, sweeping all of Paris into a fight for justice.



The Film:

Few will argue with the contention that RKO Radio's 1939 adaptation of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the best of the many screen versions of the Hugo classic. We say this even allowing for certain liberties taken with the source material-liberties calculated by scenarists Sonya Levien and Bruno Frank to draw parallels between 15th century Paris and 20th century Europe. Thus, Claude Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke), the villain of the piece, is no longer merely a religious hypocrite unable to control his own carnal desires. Instead, Frollo is a bush-league Hitler, warning that the invention of the printing press is dangerous in that it will encourage the rabble to think for themselves, and plotting the persecution and destruction of the "undesirable" gypsies. In the same vein, Gringoire the Poet (Edmond O'Brien in his film debut) has been transformed into an agit-prop "Group Theatre" activist, bent on bringing the unvarnished truth to the ignorant Parisians. Many of Hugo's subplots have been dispensed with, the better to concentrate on the grotesquely deformed Quasimodo (Charles Laughton), bell-ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, and his puppylike loyalty towards imperiled gypsy dancer Esmerelda (Maureen O'Hara, in her first American film appearance). The schism between the haves and have-nots in the walled city of Paris is illustrated in broad, visually dynamic strokes by director William Dieterle.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Although Laughton doesn't attempt the acrobatics that Lon Chaney performed in the silent version, his hunchback comes across as one of the cinema's most impressive 'grotesque' characterisations. Dieterle directs in a way that reminds you of his background as actor/director in the German expressionist cinema: the visuals here impressively recall earlier movies from Metropolis (the crowds) to The Last Laugh (tracking shots through the shadows). Richly entertaining.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

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

The 1939, and best version, of The Hunchback of Notre Dame arrives on Blu-ray from Warner and for the most part looks very impressive. The 2-hour film is transferred to a dual-layered disc with a very high bitrate. The image quality shows some minor grain but I would say contrast, a function of detail, is the most pleasing attribute of the 1080P transfer. It is very clean with a modicum of waxy softness that does not seem inconsistent with a strong replication of the original film. Daylight scenes are striking in their high level of sharpness and the darker scenes later in the film show no noise at all. Maureen O'Hara's Esmeralda is as enchanting as I have ever seen her! This Blu-ray is artifact-free and provides a truly amazing video presentation for this wonderful film!






















Audio :

For authenticity we get a DTS-HD Master mono track at 821 kbps. It sounds clean, consistent and flat with an underwhelming depth prevalent in the ringing cathedral bells and the uplifting score by the great Alfred Newman (The Diary of Anne Frank, Bus Stop, Blood and Sand, A Letter to Three Wives, Panic in the Streets, The Song of Bernadette etc. etc.) It sounds tight and defined without being overly impacting on the stellar image. There are optional English subtitles on the region FREE Blu-ray disc, playable world-wide.


Extras :

Warner include a 12-minute, older, interview with Maureen O'Hara (as found on previous editions), a 21-minute short entitled Drunk Driving part of the 1939 'Crime Does Not Pay' series, and also from that year a cartoon; The Lone Stranger and Porky with the usual caveat about ethnic and racial prejudices of the time. There is also a theatrical trailer.



I revisit this film at least every couple for years - and can now discard to older DVD. This 1080P of The Hunchback of Notre Dame will definitely please fans of the film. The 1080P video and lossless audio seem miraculous to those who endured the weakness of the SD all these years. This, IMO, is a great film to have on Blu-ray. It's a memorable classic that never tarnishes with age and we give this our highest recommendation! (a super first indicator for the Golden Year - 1939 Collection!)

Gary Tooze

June 3rd, 2015

  Also part of the Golden Year - 1939 Collection [Blu-ray] that includes; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Dodge City, and Gone With the Wind.


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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