The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Director: Paul Leni
Main Stars: Mary Philbin, Conrad Veidt, Julius Molnar Jr., Olga Baclanova, Brandon Hurst
Storyline: A noble refuses to kiss the kings hand so he kills him and surgically disfigures his son as revenge. The son travels on a freak show and does not know that he really is a noble.
Review (Spoils): The son of Lord Clancharlie Gwynplaine (Julius Molnar Jr., ) is punished for his father’s actions to the king. He gets sent to Dr. Hardquanonne who is known to disfigure children and kidnap them. Gwynplaine gets a permanent smile craved into his poor face and gets exiled into the cold winter where is founded by a man who runs a traveling freak show. Years pass and Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt) travels with them as “The Man Who Laughs” and falls in love with a blind woman named Dea (Mary Philbin). During their travels Duchess Josiana (Olga Baclanova) falls in love with his face of fake happiness during one of his shows. She tracks him down with her wild traits and entraps him in a love triangle.
Silent films are easy to review as it comes down to scenery and facial expressions that make the film. This film has both! The scenery is very well done from the royal bedchambers to the costumes themselves. The crazed jester Barkilphedro (Brandon Hurst) was awesome. He was the perfect villain as you can see the madness right in his eyes as he laid his evil ideas and plans to the king about the child Gwynplaine. He was truly way more frightening them the laughing man himself. The second most interesting character is the child actor Julius Molnar Jr. during his travels through the storm and the sheer innocence of him when rescues the baby from the dead mothers arms. The film describes this perfectly on the screen without words. The rest of the film is interesting such as the quite loosely enjoyable Duchess Josiana and the hidden face of Gwynplaine when he was older but I feel the true outstanding of the film is the younger moments of the film.
Rating: This film was very interesting and it held my attention. The storyline was thick and did not contain any real holes unlike other plots for this era. Sure it’s a love story but at the same time it’s a story of tragedy as poor Gwynplaine gets punished for his own father’s actions. The film has an iron maiden which worth some gold stars also.