The Elephant Man (1980)

Wow, what a stunning movie. A beautiful portrayal by a very young Anthony Hopkins (aside: squee!) and John Hurt playing the Elephant Man. I laughed, I cried, I came away changed. The scene in the train station:

had me in tears.
Reading about it, it seems the movie did keep fairly faithful with real life. A few loose ends, but still well-done. Nothing more to say, really…I have no criticisms - it was touchingly depicted.

I have been such a movie whore lately. In the last two weeks, I have seen X3, Cars, a History of Violence, Enemy at the Gates, and Born in East L.A.

I have been trying to find this movie to rent for over a year now, no one has it in four different cities! And I love John Hurt! Thats it, next paycheck I am just buying the blasted thing.

An actor has three things to use, their looks, their voice, and their talent. Take out one of those three and it’s much more difficult to turn in a good performance.

John Hurt couldn’t use his own face, as the disfiguring makeup obscured it. Yet he still was nominated for Best Actor for his role as John Merrick. Didn’t win, but it shows what a talent he is.

Because of that film I have followed his career, and that of Anthony Hopkins, closely. I love their films, most of them anyway. Shoot, Hurt’s first credited film role, as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, was a bang up supporting performance. Too bad he was wasted in Alien, I’d like to have seen how his character would have evolved.

I have two favorite scenes in TEM. The first is when Merrick continues reciting the psalm, past the part he was “taught” by Dr. Treves, and he explains to him, and the hospital administrator, played by the reknowned Sir John Gielgud, that he knows the Book of Common Prayer very well indeed.

Then I like the little smirk on Gielgud’s face as he has the hospital board assembled, and introduces the Princess of Wales. The board then proceeds to listen to her message from the Queen.

A lot of people were upset that the movie wasn’t based on Bernard Pomerance’s play of th same name. It’s not a legitimate criticism – the film is its own thing, and there’s no law that says it has to adhere to another medium’s interpretation. Pomerance’s play is worth seeing if you can, or reading if you can’t.

Bth the play and the movie derive from the same two sources – Treves’ memoirs and Ashley Monagu’s book “The Elephant Man – A Study in Human Dignity”. But Treves seems to have relied on his memory alone (there’s no other way to explain his many errors, including calling Merrick “John” when his name was really “Joseph”). Montague dug a little deeper, but still not deep enough. Merrick lived and died a bit over a century ago, and there’s a lot of documentary evidence about him. If youre interested, get Howell and Ford’s The True History of the Elephant Man

There’s a lot both the play and fil, trying to fill in the gaps, got wrong – Merrick wasn’t born deformed. His “keeper” wasn’t a drunk who beat him (He ended up very successful and well-off, and Merrick never condemned him). It’s very possible that he never met the actress, Dame Kendall (although having them meet is dramatically irresistable). The model of the Church he builds is from a kit (something obvious to m as soonas I saw the photo of it in Montagu’s book).
The book itself has been overtaken by events. It’s no longer believed that he suffered from Neurofibromatosis (Von Recklinghausen’s disease), buta different affliction called Proteus Syndrome.

I love this film and consider it one of the finest ever made. Superb cast, excellent script, wonderful camera work. For me, the best decision in the making of this film was to film in black and white. According to IMDB, the person responsible for that decision was (uncredited) Executive Producer Mel Brooks.

Yes, that Mel Brooks.

I often find that people who are somewhat or very familiar with Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks are shocked when they find out that David Lynch directed The Elephant Man. I always tell them to watch The Straight Story too. What a great film (both of them)!

Very shortly after my now-husband and I met, TEM was coming on cable. We each had seen it at the theater before we met, and we decided to watch it again together. By the end, we were sharing a box of Kleenex, bawling, and holding hands tightly. It sounds very silly probably, but that was a moment when we knew that we were likely going to be soul mates. At the least, as we discovered when we talked about it years later, if one or the other of us hadn’t been affected by the film, we wouldn’t have wanted to continue seeing each other. 23 happy years later, it’s still a very special movie to us, beyond it being a great film.

Didn’t know it was uncredited- it wasn’t a secret that Brooks was Executive Producer, and the film states that it’s a Brooksfilm Production up front.

RE the next post- I don’t see how anyone familiar with Lynch’s usual style could NOT see it in TEM- the industrial noise, the fascination with deformity, the
Goddess figure. The Eraserhead Baby is The Elephant Man is Dune’s Advanced Space Navigators in Dune is Twin Peaks’ Dancing Dwarf - nothing comes to mind for Blue Velvet or Wild At Heart tho.

Yes, he was uncredited, and when you read about it, it says he didn’t want to be known because he didn’t want people to think it was a comedy.

I’m surprised and personally happy to hear that a 42-year-old man is “very young”. But he had been making movies since he was 29.

Nothing to add, but that this was one of Lynch’s most beautiful moments. Certainly his touch is all over the film, but he scales it back because the reality of the situation doesn’t require it. For all of the wierdness on display in his other films, you never get the impression he’s trying to put on a freak show, and I think TEM provides ample evidence that these are all profoundly human characters to him.

As I get older my definition of old changes, of course. I’m 30 now, I’d surely date a 42 YO man. Suddenly it’s not off-limits. :smiley:

Oh yes. When I was 18, someone in their 40’s was “middle-aged” Now I’m 51, and haven’t reached middle-aged yet, and am certainly a very long way from being old!