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The Elephant Man (1982) Scorpion Releasing

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    Travis Sheldon
    Senior Member

  • Elephant Man, The (1982) Scorpion Releasing



    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: August 26, 2014
    Director: Jack Hofsiss
    Cast: Philip Anglim, Kevin Conway, Penny Fuller
    Year: 1982
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    This story is told as a memoir of Dr. Frederick Treves (Kevin Conway). Dr. Treves is new to the London Hospital. One day after leaving the hospital, he takes notice of a carnival barker, Ross (Christopher Hewett - Mr. Belvedere), standing in front of a banner promoting an Elephant Man. Curious, Dr. Treves enters the tent and sees John Merrick (Philip Anglim) for the first time. Treves quickly leaves and makes a deal with Ross to take Merrick back to the hospital for closer study of his affliction. After examination, Merrick returns to work in the carnival as it heads to Europe. Police interference eventually makes it impossible for Merrick to continue working, so Ross sends him back to London with only the clothes on his back. Merrick ends up at London Hospital, where Dr. Treves puts him in a special ward so he can have privacy away from the leering eyes of the locals. As Dr. Treves continues to study Merrick, he tries to teach him societal norms. He introduces Merrick to Mrs. Kendal (Penny Fuller), a famous actress. Initially Mrs. Kendal is hesitant meeting Merrick, but their shared love of Romeo & Juliet sparks their friendship. As time goes on, Mrs. Kendal begins to see the intelligence and sensitivity that lies beneath Merrick's unsavory appearance. Eventually, she introduces Merrick to the high society of London and he is an immediate sensation. Merrick is adored by the well to do and clergy alike and is lavished with gifts.

    The rest of the story deals with the ramifications of Merrick's friendships with Dr. Treves and Mrs. Kendal until his death.

    This is an adaption of Bernard Pomerance's 1977 play of the same name. The original play was also directed by Jack Hofsiss, who won a Tony Award for his work there. Conway and Anglim reprise their roles from the original play, as well. Being that this is a filmed version of a stage play, at times it can feel a bit "stagey". But luckily the story moves along at a brisk pace to keep things from getting tedious. There are few sets used, basically hospital wards and an area for the carnival scenes, but it never feels cramped. The costume and set design is solidly done in a mid to late 18th century motif.

    Look for an appearance by Glenn Close as Princess Alexandra. Horror fans may also recognize Jarlath Conroy (Day of the Dead - 1985) as a curious hospital janitor. One of the unique things about this production is the lack of any prosthetic effects on Philip Anglim as John Merrick. In the opening scene, Anglim is posed as DaVinci's Vitruvian Man and slowly contorts his body into the shape of John Merrick. I was skeptical at first, but Anglim's performance is very convincing and made me forget about makeup effects for the duration of the runtime. Anglim received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for this role. It is also worth noting that this production received 4 Emmy Awards nominations, with Penny Fuller winning for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special. Director Jack Hofsiss was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award in the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials category. Kevin Conway deserves mention as Dr. Treves, his performance is solid. He's been in numerous high profile films like Slaughterhouse-Five, Paradise Alley, and The Lathe of Heaven. His face will also be recognizable due to numerous appearances on TV shows such as OZ, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Law & Order, Miami Vice, and In the Heat of the Night.

    The Elephant Man made its debut in January of 1982 as a broadcast on ABC's Theater of the Month.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The video is presented 1.33:1. As it was shot on video, the picture is often soft and an occasional video glitch happens, but that is indicative of the source material. As someone who grew up watching Doctor Who and various other low budget, shot on video productions I was satisified with the quality. The lighting is a bit dark, that could be down to stylistic choice, though. Probably weren't a lot of brightly lit interiors in the late 1880's.

    Audio is presented AC-3 and is clear and crisp. This is a dialogue driven story, so foley effects are few. Whenever there is more than dialogue, the sounds are all distinct. At no time did I have to strain to hear anything. There is some background noise or hiss, but it never distracts from the story. No subtitles are present on the disc.

    The DVD has two exclusive interviews with Actor Kevin Conway (23:25) and Director Jack Hofsiss (13:26). Both men seem very enthusiastic and share good memories of the production. Conway looks and sounds great for a man in his 70's. He tells the story of meeting Ken Burns, who later hired him for voiceover work in his documentaries Mark Twain, Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, & others. Hofsiss' directorial work includes TV's Another World and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1984 - Jessica Lange & Tommy Lee Jones). During Hofsiss' interview there is a strange squeaking noise (Possibly Hofsiss' chair?) that can be heard semi-frequently. In one tale Hofsiss recounts David Bowie's run as John Merrick in the play.

    Rounding out the DVD are trailers for other Scorpion titles including: Saint Jack / Wombling Free / Blood Feud / Go Tell the Spartans / Shame / Space Raiders / Winter of Our Dreams / The Last Days of Chez Nous

    The Final Word:

    This is a DVD that is worthy of your purchase for Philip Anglim's performance as John Merrick alone. TV movies of this vintage are hard to come by in any video format. But, if you have an aversion to 1980's TV video quality or filmed stage plays, this disc may not be for you.

























    • C.D. Workman
      #1
      C.D. Workman
      Senior Member
      C.D. Workman commented
      Editing a comment
      I actually remember being a kid and watching this with my parents, brother, and sister. It was incredibly moving (at least, I remember it that way; I don't know how I'd feel about it today).
    Posting comments is disabled.

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