The Top 5 Best Movie Frollos
The English title of The Hunchback of Notre Dame may point to Quasimodo as the main character but it’s Frollo who gets the plot in gear by attempting to kidnap Esmeralda.
Frollo in the book is a complex character who has to fight earthly desires but is driven to torment, crime and madness.
In book he is a priest and very committed to perfection in his profession but due to the strict codes of early Hollywood morality, Frollo subsequently is rarely depicted as priest in major movies.
This page is a look at which Frollo in film, and by extension TV movies as well, is the best depiction of the character and just all around memorable character. And because there isn’t a lot of Hunchback movies out there this is a The Top Five Best Frollo.
List is Subject to change, as you never know if and when a new Hunchback movie will come along. Since starting this page there have been seven project to get announced but as yet nothing has been released.
The most promising one in the pipeline is the the live action Disney remake. The production is being lead by Josh Gad but so far there is no news on casting only that it is still in the works.
So this list could be extended to six or more but for now it's Five Frollo characterizations.
Kenneth Haigh The 1977 Version
The 1977/1976 Tv movie is one of the most accurate versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
While they do leave big subplots out, like Esmeralda’s backstory (most of the version do however,) they do try to squeeze a lot of the book in it and as result we get a sort watered-down Frollo who tries hard with material but there is a lack of passion and torment to the writing.
It's actually the major problem with the 1977 version is that while it is accurate to the novel, the production values are so lack luster that is a very dull version and the characters suffer because of it.
So with a bigger budget and more effort this really could have been a great version of Frollo.
Alain Cuny, The 1956 Version
The 1956 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (This version is actually called Notre Dame de Paris) is the first time since the before 1923 version that Frollo was depicted as priest, though I have no idea how the lost film depicted the character though is surviving photograph of the 1911 version it seemed like Frollo was a priest.
The trouble with the 1956 Frollo is that despite him being a priest who practices alchemy there is nothing really to this Frollo. He glares at Esmeralda and hides behind walls and that is the extent of his torment and desire for her.
It's almost cheating in a way that Frollo and Esmeralda have like no interactions with each other. It also doesn't help that Cuny is just too attraction for the role.
And if a Frollo can’t communicate this torment than he just not very interesting and yet the 1956 Frollo is still better than some other movie characterizations of the character, at least this version sort of tried with the book material.
Derek Jacobi, The 1982 Version
Frollo from the 1982 TV-movie is a very good depiction of Frollo but they take some dramatic licenses taken with the character that are detrimental to the drama.
First off let’s just get to the elephant in the room; the wig. Frollo’s blond salad bowl wig is beyond silly. Besides being ridiculous even for the 80’s it makes him look too kind and soft. Frollo at the start is a good kind and just person but he supposed to look austere and harsh with a balding head and what little hair remains is gray.
Another problem with this Frollo is that he goes from zero to hundred with regards to his obsession for Esmeralda. In the book he spends months obsessing over her and tormenting over her until it reaches a critical mass. In the 1982 version he sees her getting arrested and with in a few hours he wants her, it just robs the drama from the character.
Despite all that however, Jacobi does a good job with the material he is given and we have a legit jail/confession scene which is the big Frollo scene that is rarely done in movie versions.
The Disney Version
The Disney Version of Frollo is without a doubt one of the best Disney villains, within the first ten minutes he chases a poor mother down which leads to her death and nearly drowns her infant, he’s just cruel and a control-freak but how is he as depiction of Frollo?
Well being a Disney movie, a media giant that tries to appeal to everyone, Frollo is a judge and has control over Paris, in fact he burns most of Paris down and the king doesn’t say one word.
As a judge he doesn’t have the church as his cause for why is tormented over his desire for Esmeralda. Instead it’s him being bigoted towards the Romani and his torment is more anger and based in losing control.
While book Frollo didn’t hate the Romani to the extent that Disney Frollo does, the anguish and losing control over his baser desire is in keeping with the book.
Disney did overpay their hand with Frollo. It is clear that he is the villain in the first five minutes of the movie instead of letting the reveal of the intent of the character come through slower of the course of the story.
While he not one-hundred percent accurate to the book he is still one, if not the most memorable Frollos in film and Hellfire is one the best scenes in a Disney movie, it might just be perfect.
Sir Cedric Hardwicke, 1939 Version
If you ever wondered where Disney got the idea to make Frollo a judge, look no further than the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The 1939 version was the first movie version to make Frollo a judge. Unlike the Disney version, there is a religious component to his characterization though he acts more on hating the Romani. It is unclear in the story why he has this religious tone to his character, could be how he was raise his is brother is the archdeacon.
For clarity, this versions of Frollo is Jehan and his godly older brother is named Claude and is the archdeacon. This is how the 1923 version did it with the younger brother being nominally the younger brother but doing what the elder Claude does in the book.
What is really great about the 1939 Frollo is the the way Hardwicke plays the character. He plays the role in a really restrained manner. He never goes into full-on crazed fevered mode like Frollo in the book but there is something to the depiction that makes one feel that this Frollo is walking a very fine line to keep himself together and at any moment he could just lose full control over himself. It's unhinged without going overboard.
Also the jail/confession scene, a.k.a the tree scene, is done with great angles and shadows the gives Frollo an almost possessed quality.