The Frollo character in the 1923 version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is the worst depiction of the character in any of the prominent adaptations. What do I mean when I say the Frollo character? Well he is the character who acts on his lust for Esmeralda and gets the plot moving. What makes Frollo a compelling character is his inner struggle about desiring a girl and even if he is not a priest he needs to be battling against something that is contrary to his way of being/thinking. Either it’s his own pride of his purity or his bigoted opinion of the Gypsies. This is the hallmark to his character, without it all you have is a creepy pervert and that is exactly what this Frollo is; an evil creepy pervert.
This version is the first time the Frollo character was split into two characters who are brothers; Jehan, the younger is the licentious lecher (the Frollo Character) and the saintly older Claude (or in the case of the 1923 version Dom Claudio). This method was employed in the 1939 version however it worked in that movie as Jehan Frollo had depth and some complexity. In the 1923 version there is no depth to Jehan, he is nothing more than a spoiled perverted brat.
In a nutshell, Jehan was a priest but he decided he preferred sins to virtues. This brief bit of backstory is presented in one inter-text card. So what could have been an integral part of the movie is reduce to a sentence. Now to be fair, movies in the early 20s didn’t really flesh out villains, they were bad, so at least we get a text card that somewhat acknowledges the book. However even giving the movie a stylistic pass, Jehan is still weak. Maybe if he delighted in his evil or in his desires that would have been more enjoyable as a character. There are a few moments of hammy 20’s over-acting that are enjoyable but other than that he just very weak and not very memorable. He is just devoid of any interest, personality or passion. All he is a creepy perverted stalker.
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