It’s both Air Force propaganda and a failed Howard Hughes vanity piece. It’s the final released film of legendary fallen director Josef von Sternberg. It began at one major studio and ended up at another. It’s got a redressed, drab, muddy Western set doubling for Russia in the film’s second half. It might be silly at times, but it’s never dull. There’s so, so, so much red meat here for a film historian to chew on.
For all of the grandeur, detail, and enormity of 1482 Paris depicted in this prestigious undertaking, this is, first and last, Lon Chaney’s show. It’s his presence and his 110-percent devotion to portraying Quasimodo that fuels this version of Hunchback to culturally persist when so many subsequent adaptations have been forgotten.