The Man Who Laughs (1928) – New 4K Restoration

Director: Paul Leni

1928, USA, 110 mins., 4K Digital Cinema, NR

Language: English

There’s much debate about who originally created the concept of DC’s THE JOKER – was it Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and/ or Bob Kane? Or perhaps – It was German Silent filmmaker- Paul Leni who adapted Victor Hugo’s novel into the 1928 silent film about a character (Gwynplaine) who is punished for his father’s transgressions by having his face carved into a hideous grin.

Disfigured and alone, Gwynplaine rescues a blind girl (Mary Philbin), and both end up starring in a sideshow where they fall in love.

Masterfully directed by Paul Leni, The Man Who Laughs marks Leni’s penultimate work. Having grown up in Germany during the era of Expressionism, Leni embraces haunting characters, twisted sets, harsh angles, and deep shadows. Heralded as one of the best American silents emulating German Expressionism, The Man Who Laughs presents Leni at his creative directorial peak. Originally released silent, the film was enough of a hit for Universal in 1928 that the studio released it with a synched musical score using the Movietone sound-on-film process.

Part of Universal Pictures’ ongoing silent restoration initiative, The Man Who Laughs honors the studio’s rich film history that has spanned more than a century. The primary source element for this restoration was a 35mm composite fine grain from the Universal Pictures vault, created in 1954 from the nitrate original camera negative. NBCUniversal’s restoration team was able to stabilize and deflicker the film as well as repair scratches, warps, and dirt.

This new presentation is accompanied by a newly recorded orchestral score by the Berklee School of Music.

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