There are actually a few other version of The Man who Laughs including one from 1921 and 1971 but the 1928 is the most well know, the 1966 is the most infamous and the 2012 is the most recent, so that covers the major base.

Before I end The Man who Laughs I just wanted to discuss its impact on popular culture.

The Joker, Batman, the man who laughs, picture image

The Joker

Have you ever heard of the Joker? The Joker’s look is based on Conrad Viedt’s make-up from the 1928 movie. In fact a one-shot Batman comic from 2005 is called “The Man Who Laughs. ”

but there are some more (got these off of Wiki and there is more)
-In H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), Moreau refers to L’Homme qui Rit when explaining the nature of his experiments to the protagonist.
-A short story by the name of “The Laughing Man” (first published in 1949) is featured in J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories (1953). The story appears to be influenced by The Man Who Laughs, featuring an individual facially disfigured in his childhood by criminals who have kidnapped him.
-The novelist and essayist Ayn Rand adapted Hugo’s term “comprachicos” for her own purposes in a noted essay, published in The Objectivist in 1970.
-In James Ellroy’s book The Black Dahlia (1987), the mutilation murder of Elizabeth Short is partially inspired by a painting of Gwynplaine.
-In the 2003 “Wild Cards” episode of the Justice League animated series, The Joker infiltrated a TV station by using the alias “Gwynplaine Entertainment”.
-Laughing Man, a character in Japanese anime TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002–2003) and inspired by J. D. Salinger’s short story “The Laughing Man”.
-In the 2010 Rob Zombie album, Hellbilly Deluxe 2, the last song is titled “The Man Who Laughs” and is based on the story of the same name.

Well I do think the characters could have been richer or just more interesting it does that Gwynplaine’s look does inspire people, albeit more villainous than the character or what Hugo was going with the character’s laughing face as mirror to an elitist society but whatever.

Moving on, the next book is about a deformed French guy who lives in a Paris Landmark and the story has been made into a famous musical and lot movies. Yeah, it’s Phantom of the Opera. (though there will be a hiatus till then )


Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine and Mary Philbin as Dea The man who laughs picture image

Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine and Mary Philbin as Dea

I just finished watching the 1928 The Man Who Laughs. Maybe it’s that I have a low attention span for silent films based on books I don’t really like or maybe it was because I have been on a crazy Modern Family watching binge, either way this movie was work to finish.

I will admit I was a little interested in seeing this movie as Mary Philbin, who was in Phantom, Conrad Veidt who I just saw in another movie recently where he plays a Frolloesque character and Brandon Hurst who played Frollo in the 1923 version. Here Hurst plays the villain again, man he is type-cast as Hugoian villains. So I didn’t not want to watch it but then it started…

Like the book the plot just goes Zoom-By. I still didn’t really get a feeling for any of the characters, in fact we lost Homo’s sensitivity and Ursus’ grumpiness but we didn’t get long histories of the peerage system OR that snow storm as sea scene, so take you pick at which one was better.

Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine and Olga V. Baklanova as Josiana The man who laughs picture image

Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine and Olga V. Baklanova as Josiana

Really, the only good thing about this movie is Veidt’s facial or rather eye emotions. The look of Gwynplaine it so otherworldly that is the only thing memorable about anything along with Veidt’s acting. The other people aren’t bad but there isn’t much to go on really.

The ending was a mixed bag too. The lovers live and that is fine, I actually think the ending didn’t make much sense in the book, Hugo just wanted a tragic ending so it was trite but before they can get to the happy ending there is a big dumb chase because silent movies love big dumb chases at the end, ask Phantom of the Opera. And if that wasn’t bad or dumb enough Homo kills Barky. It doesn’t really matter, Barky was a lame villain anyway but still he could have just drown which would have been at least a call back to the book. Also Homo was a dog not a wolf, that isn’t a complaint just a fact, was more likely easier on the production.

Now here are some weird things;

-The lady who played Josiana, Olga V. Baklanova, looked like Madonna, the singer…. good thing they didn’t remake this movie in Madonna’s heyday. Josiana also got a monkey,. Apparently Baklanova’s resemblance to Madonna has been noted by modern critic…… and people on IMBD but if you have eyes you can see it too, it not subtle.
-I don’t know what the heck they did to David’s character. I thought he was suppose to be sophisticated but he acted so derpy in this movie. Was he meant to be a flop?
-This movie is ALL over the place with its costumes and set pieces timeframe. Like it said 17th century (pretty sure), at the start but the costumes range from the 1700s to late Victorian to the 1920’s. They had no idea of what period this story takes place in. But you know that didn’t REALLY bother me but you know what did a little bit, the amusement park rides. This movie has a rides at the 17th century fair. This just looked so out of place.
-as of 2015 there hasn’t been an American remake of this movie and the 1928 movie it is the ONLY American version.
-This version is the basis for the Joker’s look, not a weird thing just awesome…

Basically with the this version of the book the best thing you can say is the make-up and the acting were decent but the rest of it felt moldy. I wish the characters were better developed but then we wouldn’t have gotten that chase scene…….. can’t win…….it’s either a snow storm or a chase.

The Man who Laughs Part II:  Book 9; In Ruins


The Man who Laughs Part II: Conclusion: The Night and the Sea  

I was going to talk about the ninth part and the conclusion separately but to heck with that, I’m so happy to be done with this book. Seriously this book was like some kind of life-sucking monster only more boring.

So what happens at the end? If I said not much would be you surprised?  Gwynplaine goes full on emo and almost kills himself as his family is gone and his former life. I did like this part because it was very Hugo, it was like reading a Frollo chapter which I find a delightful combination of beautiful and hilarious. They are lovely proses but read them out loud and it is so melodramatic.

So Gwynplaine is about to kill himself when Homo licks his hand. Homo leads him to Ursus and Dea. Dea is dying because Gwynplaine is not there. However when Gwynplaine presents himself to Dea, she dies anyway because she is too happy or something. Ok, what the shit? This makes no fucking sense. Tragic it is but fuck it, Hugo just wanted a tragic ending. Oh and then Gwynplaine kills himself. Whatever I don’t care really.

I get that this story is more thematic than story or characters or a plot. It’s more a tale of society and its outlook on wealth, customs and humanity. It’s art more than entertainment and more stylistic of the times it was written in, I get it.

HOWEVER it’s still a story, I have to make a sense of it.

Basically the plot goes that King had noble child kidnapped, disfigured, and left to die but then he is  adopted with a  blind infant to a wise curmudgeon and his sensitive wolf. The boy grows up and is in  an ethereal love with the blind girl and is both revered and mocked for his laughing face but it’s cool because he has love. And then in the MOTHER of all coincidence some old jerky guy working at the palace who wants to piss off a hot noble chick just so happens to find evidence that the disfigure guy is a noble and should marry the lady who he wanted to piss off and has a thing for disfigure guy. So they make him a peer but since rich people suck and don’t get it, the disfigure peaces out and finds his love dying and then he dies. WHY?

I wish Hugo had taken more time in the story to get us emotionally connected to the characters. The most I can say about Dea is that she innocent and ethereal. I don’t really doubt her love for Gwynplaine but I didn’t feel anything when she died because Hugo likes sad endings but for an ending to be sad you need an emotional connection.

More than there was no other closure with Josiana who was big player in this story. All there was like a “fine, whatever” on her end and it was in the form of a letter. And just to make me a little more bewilder, the events of the story proper, are like two days, tops. So in the course of two days Gwynplaine says he will be a peer,  leave and Dea dying.  Just because it’s a thematic story with meaning doesn’t mean you can’t have good characters. So while I don’t know much about the characters of this story I know shit tons about how storms start at sea and the British  Peerage System, Classic Fucking Entertainment.

Nope, I didn’t like this story, nooooooope  maybe the movies  will be better at least they can’t describe the storm at sea as much a Hugo did.

The Man who Laughs Part II:  Book 8: The Capital and things around it

I am not opposed to learning about British history, I’m opposed to it interrupting my boring story. Seriously, most of this part of the book is learning that the British peers are jerk-faces.  And because at this point I’m just trying to get this book done, I’m really skimming the thing and at one point I must have forgotten that I was alive because Gwynplaine’s snapped me back into breathing.

Gwynplaine goes on a nice tirade about how he is laughing at these false supreme Lords and that he is reality. That part I liked but you have to go through Lord Pooington, Earl of Crapiwoodshire, Blah blah blah, pardon my lame attempt at humor it was just really boring to read about  the Lords of England AGAIN for what like the third time?

I did like that at the end one of the chapters, where the Lords are upset that Gwynplaine didn’t bow to throne before leaving. Oh I should point out that this part was about Gwynplaine joining the House of Lords. And it at the end of this part that we learn about David and Gwynplaine being brothers. Also Josiana is just going to make David her lover so she figured out her problem, kudos.  Oh and David challenge some Lord to a dual, fun.

I know this is part of Hugo’s style, explaining context and histories but in books like Hunchback and Le Mis there was a larger plot, here it’s not like there isn’t a plot but it’s smaller and to keep going back and forth with characters and then describing architecture and the Lord  Fizzywater (again bad humor) just becomes tiring to read. I feel like nothing for characters, I mean I have little baring on Gwynplaine’s personality other than his looks and his lust.  AT least there was Ursus and Homo, they had personality.

Unlike Esmeralda and Gringoire’s wedding, the nuptials of  Phoebus and Fleur de Lys isn’t really presented in the book but mentioned as a bitter joke. At the end Hugo tells us of all the tragic endings the characters have even if they lived to the ending. For our old pal Gringoire he writes tragedies, clever. Phoebus‘ tragic end is that he gets married.

Hugo mean that they marriage was the tragic occurrence for Phoebus, as Fleur de Lys more than likely put him on a tight leash, though maybe they just like that sort of thing, (wink.)  So I guess that Fleur de Lys is the only character in Hunchback to get a happy ending, well her and maybe Djali.

Unlike Gringoire and Esmeralda humble quick wedding, you can bet that Fleur de Lys and Phoebus‘ wedding would have been a lavish late medieval affair, with dancing and flowy gowns and those princess hennin cones for the ladies.

To date, this wedding is only in ONE Hunchback movie and it was so shoe-horned in that is inappropriate but I will get to that later.

The Man who Laughs Part II:  Book 5: The Sea and fate are Moved by the Same Breathe

Ok, I have to say before I get into this part of the book I read it like a few days ago maybe like a week or so before writing this blog post and I have been doing a lot work cleaning and moving stuff around my house and a family member’s house so I’m just really exhausted so if this post is missing anything major from this part of the book, I’m sorry.

That being said, not a lot happens in this part of the book, shocking I know considering all the action this book has had with its 900 pages about snow on the sea, I kid but still.

Basically we learn the back backstory of Gwynplaine and those people from that doctor dude. The king at the time of Gwynplaine’s parent’s sold him to the child nappers and disfigured him. The doctor then dies right before they were going to execute him.

Barky then takes Gwynplaine to his large and beautiful home where he tells him of his new position in life and offers him a single chance to turn it all down, which he doesn’t. He also going to marry Lady Josiana which I guess is like an insult to her according to Barky and Queen. I think Josiana’s fiancee is now disinherited or something because of Gwynplaine. If you know the particulars of that plot point* leave a comment though my guess is it will probably resurface later. I admit it, I do a lot of skimming, so I do miss stuff.

Oh and at the end of the part Gwynplaine thinks of Dea.  But I mean come on, this is a Victor Hugo novel, I’m sure everything will work out happily from our lovers, all sunshine and roses and general happy romance things.

* I read a spoiler so I sort of know now, tehe, also I got a “delightful” vague spoilery warning, which is why I end the post will sarcasm. As much as I have been complaining about this book, I’m looking forward to the movie versions at least it will clear up parts I have skimmed.

Also a little warning- I’m taking June off from these posts. I’m going to try and finish the book during the break, hopefully, my June could be busy too but a later post will explain why I’m doing this.

The Man who Laughs Part II: Book 4: The Cell of Torture

Much like Hunchback we get a torture scene though it’s pretty different. First let me backtrack a little bit. Back in Book 3 there was this chapter called The Wapentake. A Wapentake was an administrative division of the English court. Basically in the context of this story, if they touch with their staff thing you’re pretty much arrested and here in Book 4 one comes for Gwynplaine. However prior to that Gwynplaine torments himself over the beautiful duchess or the heavenly Dea, poor guy, two women want his love, does he have to spilt his heart in two? Dare I say he’s torn apart. Actually, No, he burns the letter and then the court cop shows up. Gwynplaine is taken silently as to not upset Dea.

Ursus then follows Gwynplaine and the Wapentake to the jail, the Southwark jail. There Gwynplaine sees a prisoner pretty much being torture but not quite because they didn’t torture people in England as that time, instead they deny the poor guy food and drink. The man also claims to know Gwynplaine which Gwynplaine denies and freaks out.
The Sheriff then says to Gwynplaine,

I have before me,” said the sheriff, “Lord Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, and a peer of England.”
Rising, and offering his chair to Gwynplaine, the sheriff added,–
“My lord, will your lordship deign to seat yourself?”

Gwynplaine is a lord! WHAT! I should go back and skim through that chapter on the English nobles, because even if I had paid attention I would have forgotten. *
Anyway this book was okay, I mean really only a few things happen but the twist was nice though.


*Thanks to magic, (CTRL+F for the name Clancharlie) I found the the mention of the title in that boring part way back at the start of the book.
Linnæus, Lord Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, derives his title from the castle of Clancharlie, built in 912 by Edward the Elder, as a defence against the Danes. Besides Hunkerville House, in London, which is a palace, he has Corleone Lodge at Windsor, which is another, and eight castlewards, one at Burton-on-Trent, with a royalty on the carriage of plaster of Paris; then Grumdaith Humble, Moricambe, Trewardraith, Hell-Kerters (where there is a miraculous well), Phillinmore, with its turf bogs, Reculver, near the ancient city Vagniac, Vinecaunton, on the Moel-eulle Mountain; besides nineteen boroughs and villages with reeves, and the whole of Penneth chase, all of which bring his lordship £40,000 a year.

Now how could one possibly forget that at the end of chapter full of paragraphs like it? My sarcasm aside it was still a nice twist though.

The Man who Laughs Part II: Book 3: The Beginning of the Fissure

Where most authors who have the plot kick in anywhere from 1 to 25% of the way through the book, Victor Hugo, with his 1860’s style dares to be different and say “No, the plot kicks in around 52%,” gotta love Kindles for giving percentages.

So yes, the main plot starts around here in Part two book three, though there have been critical backstory components that have been explored, like all the ocean and storm descriptions, I don’t know about you but I would be lost without them. Despite the kicks in very little actually happens. Out crewe goes to London. Ursus gets in a little trouble with some intellectuals guys, Gwynplaine is sexual aroused when he see Lady Josiana which in turns gives away for him to gave conflictions towards Dea, as he finds her a scared entity and desiring her as a woman is driving him crazy.
At the end of the book Josiana’s page gives Gwynplaine a note that says she desire him and he should come to her.

The beginning of this part was a dull but it did pick up toward the end. I did enjoy the descriptions comparing Dea and Josiana and when Hugo goes into pose about conflictions about sexual desire that is also interesting. Also Ursus with intellectuals doctor guys was amusing. This part gets a grade of a B. It’s solidly ok.

Gwynplaine and Dea

Well, well, well  our dear pal of Ten-Year-Old-Nameless-Boy has a name and it’s Gwynplaine, I’m going to have so much fun typing that, copy & paste powers activate!

Anyway much like Quasimodo, Gwynplaine is rather deformed and monstrous. Unlike Quasimodo, his afflictions of a mutilated face were the result of the child-trader, Comprachicos, that were mentioned forever ago. His face is a permeant smile which he likens to a mask. The book hints that genetically he would be attractive and has an athletic body.  And again unlike Quasimodo, Gwynplaine is a little be more ok-ish with his face because he has made a living off it and because of the blind baby girl.

The Blind baby girl’s name is also given and it’s Dea, which is a very pretty name and it means Goddess in latin. Dea is described as being very beautiful in a fair fragile way, almost ethereal. For the record I don’t know what Gwynplaine mean, Hugo seems to have made it up. Two possibilities could be is that it means “White Plains” in Welsh or it comes out of the Arthurian legends of a character named Guinglain meaning “Fair jewel”. But I have no idea.

Most of the core subject matter that is talked about OVER and OVER and OVER again through these twelve chapter is that Gwynplaine and Dea are in love. They grew up together being cared for by Ursus and Homo and they grew to worship each other. Gwynplaine has some feeling of remorse that he feels like he is tricking a blind girl into loving him but Dea really truly loves him. It actually rather sweet and Ursus is a nice little foil trying to convince them not to love each other because he is a misanthrope.

Anyway these chapter are backstory from Gwynplaine and Dea because we need the set-up but at the end I think the plot sort kicks in with them going off to London.

I actually enjoyed these chapters, the were needed and they expanded characters that were part of the story, though I’m seeing how things are fitting together but really did 50% of this book need to be set-up? Guess it a style thing of the 1860’s or Hugo. This section was the reason I didn’t quite quit these post and opt to take a part at a time, we’ll see if the plot actually does kick in and what the plot is.

Part II:  Book I: The Everlasting Presence of the Past

Part II:  Book I: Chapter 6: Barkilphedro
Ok, I’m REALLY disappointed that Barkiphedro isn’t a puppy-dog. Instead he is old guy who is a spy for Queen Anne on her bastard half sister Josiana and her fiancee. And goody more talk of the ocean. Basically Barkiphedro gets Josiana to get him a job at the admiralty.

Part II: Book I: Chapter 7: Barkilphedro Gnaws His Way

So Barkiphedro is a jerk-face power hungry dude who dislikes Josiana. He is kinda Frollo-y in the way that he prides himself on his vitures which include self-control. Frankly I skimmed this one, Barkiphedora could be interesting but I’m still mad that he’s not a dog, though he is an awful person so it’s probably a good thing he isn’t a dog but that name, how could you not think it was dog? I suppose it being a classic novel is a good indication.

Part II: Book I: Chapter 8: Inferi
This chapter explains court hierarchy, much like school cafeteria and teenage girls. You have the super popular ones who are simply rich and pretty and then you have the type who befriends them by using evil cunning, they’re are the bitches who have the real power through manipulation of the super popular ones.