Flicker Alley’s THE MAN WHO LAUGHS Blu-ray Review

Around 1680 in England, King James II sentences Lord Clancharlie to death. Gwynplaine, Clancharlie’s son, has been given a perpetual grin by the comprachico Dr. Hardquannone. The doctor has punished him to “laugh forever at his fool of a father“. The comprachicos end up abandoning Gwynplaine and he finds a blind girl who is near death named Dea. The pair becomes friends.

When they are grown up, they joined the carnival and Gwynplaine is now called The Laughing Man. Even though he is in love with Dea, his disfigurement makes it hard for him to be as close as they want to be.

Rather than layout the entire plot, this is one film that I think plays out better when you have the deeper plot elements come as a surprise. THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is directed by Paul Lenni. Lenni was born in 1885 and begin his film directing career in 1917 with the film PRIMA VERA. THE MAN WHO LAUGHS was one of his final films in 1928 and this was right after the introduction of sound into motion pictures. It would’ve been interesting to hear the laugh behind that grin if they filmed with sound.

One noteworthy facts that the look of Gwynplaine was the inspiration of one of the most iconic villains in comics: The Joker. The images of the moment that I mentioned about the laughing he does strikes me as where The Joker was born. There’s no denying it.

Flicker Alley has partnered with Universal Studios to remaster the film in 4k by NBCUniversal StudioPost. It is taken from a 35mm elements what were created by Universal in 1954 from the original nitrate film. NBCUniversal StudioPost deflickered the film as well as cleaned up scratches, blemishes, and dirt from the film. The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra recorded the score for the film.

The film itself is well done and one of the best films from the time period. It has compelling story, complex characters, and the production value adds to the charm.


The video is a 1080p AVC presentation that looks stunning. The images have strong contrasting and definitive lines. The blacks and shadows are deep. Grey scaling is done properly and lets the video have some depth. The film seems to have been meticulously repaired and it is the best it has ever looked.


The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. It is the score has been performed by The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra. It has a nice, balanced sound and it conveys what’s happening on screen in a great way.


-Paul Leni and THE MAN WHO LAUGHS: Film historian/author John Soister does a visual essay about director Paul Leni and his time with Universal.

-Optional Secondary Audio Track: The film’s original 1928 Movietone score is also included as an optional track.

-Rare Image Gallery: This is a slideshow of various images and items relating to the film.

-The included booklet has two new essays included:
“Celebrating Universal’s Masterpiece”: written by Kevin Brownlow – film historian and author.
“Notes On the New Score”: by composer Sonia Coronado of the Berklee School of Music.

Disc Details
2-Disc Set w/ 1 Blu-ray and 1 DVD

Running Time
110 mins

Edition Ratings
Not Rated

Region Coding
Region Free

Video Resolution
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio: 1.2:1

Audio Mixes
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0



THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is another important entry from Flicker Alley to the history of cinema and, in this particular case, pop culture. The film is incredibly entertaining and just a superb piece of cinema. Plus, and I can’t say this enough, it is very cool to see the inspiration for one of my favorite comic book characters. The remaster is a success and it brings new life back into the film without making it too squeaky clean. The audio score works well and it is really nice that they included the original audio track. The included extras are well worth checking out both on the disc and in the included booklet. The release, overall, is definitely a success and I highly recommend adding this to your collection.

About the author

MEDIA JOURNALIST | Michael is a fanatic about all cinema old and new. He collects anything from 1:6 Scale Collectibles and vinyl collectibles to movies and Steelbooks. He loves pop culture, writing, reviewing films & collectibles, and journalism. An avid Batman, The Joker and anything comics junkie, he will also chat it up about pretty much anything. Go ahead and ask...