Frollo is the one of the major players in the story as he is the one who gets the story moving. In a way a Hunchback version needs a Frollo that they audience can enjoy whether he is just a dark and twisted man or a torture priest who is in conflict with his heart and his mind. So how does the 1956 version hold up?
To the film’s credit this is the first time we see Frollo as a priest who practices alchemy and lusts after Esmeralda . Too bad he’s boring, I have seen pieces of toast more interesting than him. Much like this version’s depiction of Quasimodo, this Frollo fails.
First off, his looks. It’s not Cuny is ideally handsome but he is WAY too handsome to play Frollo. Frollo, while he isn’t suppose old he suppose to look austere not rugged. It doesn’t help the story when Frollo and Phoebus look like they could be the same fashion show.
Now this Frollo marks the first time we see Frollo as he was must to be; a tortured, lusty priest who practices alchemy on the side. The way Frollo showcases his torment in this movie is by scowling, hiding behind walls, and burying his face in this hands. On the whole we don’t connect with his torment for Esmeralda. We get a few scenes where glares at her but we never see him bear his soul like Frollo does in the 1939 version or in Disney version.
The only scene that serve to show Frollo as a more than a pseudo tormented lusty priest is during Esmeralda’s trial where he sort of defends her without giving himself away as the real attacker. But he turns on her when she speaks of love and life. Also Esmeralda says that during the trail he was the worst face of all so I guess that little scene didn’t have much of an impact the characters. But I guess it’s nice that they tried.
Like I have said Frollo should have a scene where he bears his soul. Whether it’s directly to Esmeralda or to audience, that is where his drama culminates. Keeping bottle up like this Frollo does adds nothing. The only “soul bearing” this Frollo does is he tell Esmeralda that she is his as he tries to force himself on her.
I feel rather cheated that this version has the right basis for Frollo but fails to make him interesting and engaging. The Jetlag version of Frollo has more interest that this one and that it is really saying something. We really can’t feel any torment or conflict from this Frollo because I think the director doesn’t know how to convey it. So in the end we have a great set-up for Frollo but the execution fails to give the drama that the character is meant to bring to the story.
Next 1956 Article – Phoebus