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      The Man Who Laughs

      Released Nov 4, 1928 2h 4m Drama List
      100% Tomatometer 24 Reviews 87% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings Disfigured by a king as a child, an 18th-century clown (Conrad Veidt) again becomes the pawn of royalty. Read More Read Less
      The Man Who Laughs

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      Critics Consensus

      A meeting of brilliant creative minds, The Man Who Laughs serves as a stellar showcase for the talents of director Paul Leni and star Conrad Veidt.

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      Critics Reviews

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      Anton Bitel Little White Lies despite initial references to unconventional surgeries and deadly torture, Leni's film... is rather a sentimental romance and a political satire, with just a smidgin of rooftop swashbuckling thrown in near the end. Aug 17, 2020 Full Review TIME Magazine The Man Who Laughs is a truly great, a devastatingly beautiful film. Oct 20, 2014 Full Review J. R. Jones Chicago Reader As usual in Hugo, love is measured in sacrifice, yielding a sincere and extravagant sense of romance. Jan 8, 2014 Full Review Pare Lorentz Judge I have never seen a better representation of the spirit of a novel in that the picture not only interprets the lusty romantic feeling of Hugo’s story, but it is sufficient unto itself and has no awkward turns or incongruous passages. Dec 27, 2023 Full Review Star Staff Washington Star Conrad Veidt does a wonderful piece of acting. Oct 31, 2023 Full Review Howard Waldstein CBR The Man Who Laughs is a timeless tale of woe, full of pathos and mourning. Jun 27, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      matthias s "The Man Who Laughs" was a cinematic journey that had been eagerly awaiting its turn on my watchlist, being a fan of Victor Hugo's literary prowess. The film's hauntingly beautiful music immediately captivated me, drawing me deeper into its tragic tale. As a comic book enthusiast, I couldn't help but wonder about the inspiration for the Joker character, and this film provided intriguing insights. While some may label it as horror, I found it to be a poignant narrative with just the right touch of spookiness. Conrad Veidt's performance was nothing short of mesmerizing; his ability to convey emotions solely through his eyes was truly remarkable. Yet, despite its emotional depth, the film felt a tad too slow-paced for my liking. Some scenes could have been trimmed to maintain a tighter narrative, as the plot seemed thin at times. Nonetheless, I'm glad to have experienced this heartbreaking tale, even if it did drag on a bit too long for my taste. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 03/26/24 Full Review Willie V I understand that some may be a bit against watching a silent film; however, I found this film to be done very well, and I can see why it is some people's highest recommendation in the genre. For starters, the actors' facial expressions and body movements effectively tell a compelling narrative, maybe even more than actual acting could have. It was great to see how powerful of a story was told through emotion and physical movements. The main character embodies what happens to be my favorite character archetype: the indomitable spirit, so others who may like similar characters may find something to enjoy here. His journey is not only a journey to find romantic love but also self-love and acceptance, which could relate to many. Something I also appreciated was how he transforms his own deformities into a source of laughter for others, even though it brings him sorrow. It is extremely relatable, as are many other themes in the film. Overall, I could see this being something people should watch at least once to appreciate the history of filmmaking. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 01/15/24 Full Review Matthew B Perhaps the most surprising aspect of The Man Who Laughs is that is not a horror story. It seems to bear all the trademarks of one. The film is dominated by a central character that has a ghastly permanent grin on his face, a look that helped to inspire the creators of The Joker in the Batman comics. In order to play the role of Gwynplaine, Conrad Veidt wore prosthetics, and had his mouth pulled back with metal hooks to expose his teeth. If you want a better glimpse of what the real Veidt looks like, he also plays Gwynplaine's father Then there is the gloomy Germanic look of the film, which owes its appearance to the Expressionist films of the 1920s such as Nosferatu or The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The director Paul Leni was a German moviemaker himself before he made films for Universal Studios. In the world of this film, staircases are twisted. Cameras are sometimes placed in strange positions. Shadows cover much of the screen, drawing the audience's attention to that which is in the light. The background to the making of The Man Who Laughs was not just German cinema, but the grotesque movies that were being made in America at the time by Universal. The film was clearly an attempt to cash in on the fame of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, which both featured a deformed or disfigured man who is hopelessly in love with a woman, making him a figure of both terror and pity. Gwynplaine's smile dominates every scene of the movie in which he appears. This is helped by the fact that Conrad Veidt is a tall actor and looms over many of the other cast members. Often he seeks to conceal his mouth, covering it with his hand, his cuff, his scarf or a mask. However this only draws more attention to his face. To understand what the actor is feeling, we have to look at Veidt's eyes and his gestures. They register happiness, sadness, anger, passion and lust at different points in the story. Yet it is still confusing. A smile so obviously denotes happiness or good humour but here the appearance is misleading. This is especially true in a silent movie where the words are not spoken aloud. The Man Who Laughs is not perfect. The better version of it is the original release which was entirely silent. Sadly in an attempt to catch up with the sound era, Universal Pictures added some sounds. The roars and shrieks in the crowd scenes are only distracting. Worse still, a maudlin song, "When Love Comes Stealing" is imposed over a couple of scenes, undermining the tone of the film. Still these are minor blemishes. As with Gwynplaine, the elements that mar the face of the film do not prevent its sterling qualities from showing through. The content of the film may seem too abnormal to win universal acceptance, but its generosity of spirit will win a few hearts. I wrote a longer appreciation of The Man Who Laughs on my blog page if you would like to read more: Rated 5 out of 5 stars 08/30/23 Full Review Nadja K I came to see the origins of the Joker and stayed to declared it as one of my favorite movies of all time for Conrad Veidt's mesmerizing performance. The pure emotions portrayed without any words needed make this masterpiece the rare beauty that works even for people who aren't usually captured by romantic dramas. This isn't a horror movie or dark thriller - if that's what you're expecting, you might not be disappointed anyway but met with a wonderful surprise that will stick in your mind for a very long time. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 06/29/23 Full Review Ethan S More of a romantic drama than a horror picture featuring arresting visuals, excellent pacing by director Paul Leni and of course Conrad Veidt's pained rictus. There are some moments of real pathos and excitement to be had here. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/04/22 Full Review Ral M Yeah, it's not funny, but quite beautiful. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/12/21 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis Disfigured by a king as a child, an 18th-century clown (Conrad Veidt) again becomes the pawn of royalty.
      Paul Leni
      J. Grubb Alexander, J. Grubb Alexander, Victor Hugo
      Sunrise Silents, Universal Pictures
      Production Co
      Universal Pictures
      Original Language
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Nov 4, 1928, Wide
      Release Date (DVD)
      Mar 22, 2007
      2h 4m
      Sound Mix