Ozus' World Movie Reviews
The hunchback Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) is crowned King of the Fools on festival day, a dubious honor bestowed on Paris's ugliest citizen. Meanwhile the so-called King of the Beggars, Clopin (Ernest Torrence), is agitating to overthrow the aristocrats and has his thieves and fake beggars mingle in the crowd while his adopted gypsy daughter Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller), whom he purchased from gypsies who kidnapped her from a noblewoman, entertains the crowd with her dancing to keep them occupied while his plan of attack goes into effect. Jehan (Brandon Hurst), the evil brother of the saintly Notre Dame archdeacon Dom Claude (Nigel De Brulier), craves to possess Esmeralda and orders his slave Quasimodo to kidnap the sexy gypsy. Quasimodo is captured and flogged in the public square for his crime, whereupon Esmeralda, in act of kindness, brings him water and he falls in love with her. When the jealous Jehan sees Esmeralda kissing her aristocratic lover, the captain of the guards, Phoebus (Norman Kerry), he stabs him and frames Esmeralda for the crime, figuring if he can't have her, no one can. She's sentenced to be hanged but Quasimodo reciprocates her favor by rescuing her from the King's guards, as he slides down the front of the church by rope (using a stunt man double) and carries her to safety in the church. Even though both the King and the mob want Esmeralda, Quasimodo refuses to let either side take her as he defends both Esmeralda and the church by throwing down upon them heavy objects, molten lead and stones. When the hunchback sees Jehan trying to kidnap Esmeralda, he chokes him and tosses him over the church to his demise. But Quasimodo becomes heartbroken when he sees that Phoebus wasn't killed after all and is now embracing the woman he loves, even though not lifting a finger beforehand to clear her name. This is too much for the simpleton, who takes his own life.