Posted in That 80s film

The Elephant Man (1980)

The 80’s was a great time for movies. It was a pivotal moment for directors to really show off their creative side with the special effects they had to budget. I’m really fond of the era for creating some of the most  amazing movies that people still talk about and remember.

As a late child of the 80s, I grew up watching more 90’s animated tv shows and movies but there were the movies of the 80s that I watched as a teenager which stuck in my memory for being so great.

In honour of such classic movies I’ve been able to watch (earlier or recently ), I thought I would make a series (that 80’s movie) of my favourite movies that stand the test of time and i hope you find them interesting.

What makes us different? Maybe our way of thinking, the skills we have and then ofcourse our physical appearance. Joseph Merrick, who often incorrectly called John Merrick ( 5 August 1862-11 April 1890) was more than different with his severe appearance that caused his face and  body to be mutated in some form. His skeleton is displaced at the Royal London Hospital (where i was born).

This partially  autobiographal adaptation bares plenty of room for empathy portrayed by the brilliant John Hurt who plays the character of John Merrick. Ofcourse the real events were much harsher for him to bear and nothing can justify  that but this portrayal does well to make us witness a portion of what he may have been subjected to go through.

John Merrick  is seen to be locked up in a circus in the East End of London by a man named Bytes who profits from showcasing John on display and treats him badly. “he’s a freak, where else should he live”. 

A surgeon by the name of Frederick Treves finds Merrick and takes him to the London Hospital to take care of him. With some  agitated  time, he begins to speak much fluently when he recites passages from the bible. Though the nurses and people at the place are frightened by his nature, they treat him with kindness but caution.

He is even greeted by the actress Madge Kendal, who introduces him to shakespeare and gives him a portrait of herself for his pleasure. Merrick thanks her “i shall place it in honour next to my mothers”. who was beautiful and had the face of an angel.

Anthony  Hopkins plays the surgeon so well and his kind mannerism is beautifully portrayed. He brings him clothes and a gift, that for the first time in a long time Merrick is overjoyed with tears. Many moments like these are reflected which made me smile (with few small tears to shed).

At afternoon tea, Merrick wears the gifted suit and  joins Frederick at his home and meets his wife which makes him overjoyed to be in her company as he cries “I’m not used to being greeted by such a beautiful woman”.

Merrick begins to slowly grasp the little part of how to survive in such a prejudice community, especially in the 19th century, as for a man with such incredible difficulty, he strived to live with such dignity, full of compassion. A man so sophisticated he would greet anyone with the utmost respect.

But not everyone felt the same way and showed him compasion which is the heartbreak of this movie and a powerful one at that, however as the movie  progresses, it makes you want to feel less tears and pity, as my empathy was more of feeling proud of Merrick as he gained to overcome some of his fear of being traumatised for many years in a place he tried to call his home and belong in the world although sadness of such a case is inevitable.

Throughout the movie we experience how Merrick feels but not really ever knowing what he went through. He is a man of intelligence  found to be insulted, huniliated and abused by society who find him interesting and something to talk about. Merrick himself knows this well enough saying”they are frightened by what they don’t understand”.

Frederick himself questions the morality of taking care of someone with such an  incurable disease as Merrick is met by people of  high class, and the meet and greet of people who pass to catch a glimpse of him. “am i a good man or a bad man? …I’ve made him all curious again “.

It is an unsettling movie but which Lynch movie isn’t. To say this is one of my favourites  is contradictory as i hated how  he was treated and it can be a difficult watch , but Lynch did a very  good  job at making this as profolic and visually endearing for us to understand something which  we simply can’t .

Just when you begin to feel some hope for Merrick, it is met with fear of the ugly side of those people who have no compassion and far less a man and human than Merrick ever was, as he reminds us that “i am not an elephant! I am not an animal! i am a human being!! 

Credits: Directed by David Lynch. Based on The Elephant Man and other Reminiscences by Frederick Treves.  The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu.

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, Freddie Jones, Sir John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller. 

Music by John Morris

(Other honourable mentions) :

The Shining (1980) By Stanley Kubrick

Superman 2 (1980) By Richard Donner and Richard Lester



A Mademoiselle living in the U.K Born in the late 80's with a vintage heart. My blog is made up of my thoughts; be it through the eyes of a great movie, the chapters of a book or in the hands of a game and other ideas that set my mind apart.. here on an open platform to share with the rest of the world. Won't you join me..

15 thoughts on “The Elephant Man (1980)

  1. This was and still is such a great movie. It is not dated at all, and will not ever be so. When you see this film in a hundred years from now, it will still be every bit as powerful. Great post, always cool to see when a classic is still very much appreciated 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, there are some classics that will never die out in history. I haven’t met many social friends who like this movie or have seen it but i think it’s a rare gem of a film and I’m glad you liked it too. (Took a break to write this inbetween being unwell). Thank you for liking the post. Hope my new series topic on the 80’s will be entertaining.☺

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A new series topic on the 80’s? That already sounds great: looking forward to it. Not glad to read you are feeling unwell. I hope it is nothing serious and that you will feel better soon. Please take good care. 😊


      2. Yes, it’s just about some of my favourite movies from that era which i gave it a headline of ‘that 80’s movie’.

        Thank you for your kindness. It’s definitely been a challenge to keep writing lately so hopefully I can keep at it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched The Elephant Man just recently and found it heartbreaking. The way it criticises society and points out that we should be more grateful for our “normal” life, is just masterful. Thanks for this review, you really captured the essence of this movie perfectly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your quite right. It’s such a cruel time he had to face where people made him into a spectacle to gawk at. I loved the direction and flow it was paced at. And above all for the fact he was so much more humane than they had treated him. Thank you very much for liking my review on it. ☺


  3. I just can’t stand cruelty. A true timeless film. Such wonderful performances. I’ve seen so much of Antgony Hopkins. And his speech at the train station is so powerful. As is the line to the wife. I felt like crying at that moment too.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I always forget David Lynch directed this. I’m a fan of his weirder stuff, but I’ve never seen this. I think my main problem with some of Lynch’s films is I don’t feel very much when watching them except for creeped out. You’ve made this sound very emotional though, and I’m super interested to see what that’s like. I think I might really like it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe it’s one of his more ‘simpler’ stories he has chosen to direct but perhaps that is for the autobiographical aspect of such a man. It really is a splendid way of story telling, the character’s are superb and it’s a very bittersweet story that has it’s silver lining moments. I do hope you’ll get to watch it someday. ☺

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I watched this movie recently on TCM after not having seen it for many years. I agree that it is not dated at all and is still as powerful as ever. This is the kind of film that should be rated TM for Truly Mature audiences, to distinguish it (and similar) films from typical M rated films.

    Liked by 1 person

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