The Elephant Man (1980)

em“People are frightened by what they don’t understand” – John Merrick

Number of Times Seen – 1  (27 Jan 2014)

Brief Synopsis – The story of a doctor who helped a deformed man regain his humanity.

My Take on it – Cara at The Silver Screen Serenade really inspired me with her series of reviews in her Resolutions 2014 that I went a bit overboard and watched numerous movies that I had been avoiding and had never seen before.

She has already posted three of my reviews with a fourth waiting to be posted by her in the coming days.

We all have movies that we have avoided for some reason or another over the years and it was nice to finally get around to seeing some of the ones on my list.  I didn’t like them all, but I also found a few hidden gems along the way.

This movie has been on my avoid list for years, because I had never heard many good things about it (eventhough it is critically acclaimed) and I couldn’t see myself sitting through two hours of watching a deformed man on screen.

I must honestly say that my instincts were correct and I should have avoided this movie for those two reasons alone.

This was a terribly difficult movie to get through because I didn’t find the story at all interesting and was sickened by the grotesque deformations of the title character.

This was David Lynch’s first full length mainstream movie and I can’t say I agree with all his ideas here.

The opening scene features a woman being attacked by an elephant and it seems to be giving us the message that this deformed man was born this way because she was either mauled or raped by a pachyderm.  Not only is that idea outrageous and impossible, but even the known facts of John Merrick’s disease prove that he had numerous tumors that caused these deformations and there were not caused as a result of his conception or his mothers traumatic experience prior to his birth.

There is only one bright spot in this movie and that is the performance of John Hurt as the title character.  Similar to Pygmalion, we see how he evolves from a street rat to a respected (actually more revered than respected) member of high society for his courage.

The makeup here was done so expertly that after the Oscars failed to give any recognition what-so-ever to the work done here, the amount of protests led to them adding a category for Best Makeup the following year.

I read an interesting tidbit that one of the producers of this movie was Mel Brooks and since he didn’t want people to think this movie was a spoof, he requested that his name be omitted from all credits.

Bottom Line – Not a very entertaining or engaging film.  The only bright spot is John Hurt’s performance.

Rating – BAFTA Worthy


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23 thoughts on “The Elephant Man (1980)

  1. Pingback: Movies Reviewed Index A-Z | MovieRob

  2. I love this movie!!!!! I’m devastated you didn’t like it 😦

    I featured it on my Favourite Film Friday a little while ago. It is really one of my favourite movies.

    I LOVE Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt both and I think the story is incredible but the story of Joseph Merrick has always fascinated me. Poor man had such a burden in life with his tumours yet he was actually supposed to be very lovely, very quiet and sensitive.

    The only thing I hate about the movie is how sad it is. It never fails to make me cry, certainly nothing something I can watch all the time.

    The “elephant rape” at the start is ridiculous. Typical David Lynch! I think most of the story is fairly accurate though, except I’m not convinced he was treated quite so nicely by the Royal hospital. Anthony Hopkins is so lovely in the movie, but in real life I think he used Joseph as more of an experimentation.


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