This is a very dark dramatic period movie. However, I made the executive decision to watch it and classify it as horror. The Expressionistic dark shadowy tones are more than enough to creep you out on a late night. It also stars our good friend Mr. Conrad Veid as Gwynplaine the disgraced and infamous "Laughing Man." His face is quite horrific and sticks in your mind. I can see why Bill Finger and Bob Kane used his character as an inspiration for the Joker, Batman's nemesis.
The film is pretty mediocre at best. It has its moments of triumph but overall just feels like filler. The story is a saving grace. It is the tale of a man that is disfigured as a boy when his father refused to kiss the then king's ring. When he is grown up the man travels as a sideshow act and falls in love with a blind girl named Dea. Happiness doesn't last forever and the now Queen of England, Queen Anne, plots against Gwynplaine and Dea. Of course in any situation like this one love has to triumph above all obstacles.
Paul Leni's directorial work is top notch. The creative angles and lighting are enough to push this movie into one of the best of the silent era. However, like I mentioned above it drags in some parts. I would like to see this movie expanded upon or at least redone well. Paul Leni did a great job of setting the un-settling tone of the movie though. This is definitely one to pick up. If you are a fan of Batman or just a fan of silent horror pictures. Then this movie is for you. Watch it with its original soundtrack or watch it with the soundtrack to Planet of the Apes (2001) either way is really good.
- The movie featured the song "When Love Comes Stealing," by Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack, and Erno Rapee.
- Lon Chaney was the director's first choice to play Gwynplaine. However, he was under contract to another company.
- Conrad Veidt wore special dentures in his mouth that pulled back the corners of his lips to create that smile.