The Elephant Man (1980)

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9th March 2020


Do you remember that time, back in 1980, when esteemed writer and director David Lynch gathered some of the biggest stars on the planet, and made The Elephant Man?

Well, if you don’t, then fear not, for Studio Canal have restored the original film in 4k and are making it available on digital, DVD, Blu-ray and 4k for your collection.

The film itself is astonishing, the performance from Anthony Hopkins is just superb, as is Hurt as the titular Elephant Man, though he’s under so much prosthetics it’s hard to tell it is him.

The story is of John Merrick (Hurt – who was actually Joseph Merrick in real life) who has a disfiguring disability which many people liken to an Elephant and thus he is paraded, unceremoniously, in a freak show by Bytes, Freddie Jones (“Dune”, “Krull”).

It is during this charade that Frederick Treves (Hopkins) comes across him. Treves is a surgeon at the London Hospital and has the best interest of Merrick at heart, but, in reality, Treves is doing nothing more than parading Merrick, just in a very different way.

Whilst Treves doesn’t beat Merrick, he does strip him naked in front of fellow surgeons to show him off. He also allows the upper classes to visit Merrick at the hospital. At this point Treves has brought out the real Merrick, the man underneath the disfigurement.

At nights, when Treves isn’t at the hospital, the night porter, the late, great Michael Elphick (“Gorky Park”, “Withnail & I”), takes money from locals, most of whom are drunk, to laugh and point at Merrick. He accidentally introduces Bytes back into proceedings, who wants his man back, and duly takes him.

Treves is forbidden to go looking for him by the governor of the hospital John Gielgud (“Arthur”, “Julius Cesear”) but, luckily for him, Bytes’s Boy, Dexter Fletcher (“Cockneys vs Zombies”, “Wild Bill”), takes pity on him and frees him from Bytes’ grasp.

The Elephant Man is an astonishing film, there are some visual flourishes from Lynch which you’ll either love or hate. He elected to shoot the whole thing in black and white which feels like a great decision. It brings the grime of Victorian London to the fore in a way which colour wouldn’t have allowed.

The extras, across the Blu-ray’s, are numerous. For starters, alongside the film we see: Photographing The Elephant Man – a 25 minute documentary, BFI Q&A With Jonathan Sanger – the producer on the film.

On disc two you have:

  • An interview with David Lynch
  • An interview with John Hurt
  • A second interview with David Lynch, this time at he Cartier Foundation
  • A piece about Joseph Merrick, the real elephant man
  • Behind the scenes gallery
  • Yet another interview with Lynch, this time by Mike Figgis
  • And The Terrible Elephant Man revealed – the story of how the film came about, including some words from Mel Brooks who produced the movie

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak.

6th April 2020

David Lynch

Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch

Running Time:
2h 4min

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