Producers: Stuart Cornfield, Jonathan Sanger, and Mel Brooks (uncredited)
Director: David Lynch
Writers: Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch, Frederick Treves (book), and Ashley Montagu (part of the book “The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity”)
Cast: John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Gielud, Wendy Hiller, Freddie Jones, Michael Elphick, Hannah Gordon, Helen Ryan, John Standing, Dexter Fletcher, Lesley Dunlop, Phoebe Nicholls, etc.
Rating: PG for thematic material, some disturbing images, and brief language
Running Time: 2 hours and 4 minutes
The Elephant Man is the drama based on the life of Joseph Merrick. It was Mel Brooks who suggested David Lynch direct this incredible story. While the script has some embellishments of Joseph Merrick’s life, especially the dark parts (read severe abuse), it goes without saying the story is compelling. The movie also involves a doctor, Frederick Treves, who initially sees Merrick as a medical specimen to inspect and poke with his instruments. He soon begins to see him as a human being with feelings and intellect that serves Merrick well. He is then able to stay at the hospital Treves works. While staying here, he feels more comfortable with his appearance and loses his fear of meeting others including women. It is not only Merrick who benefits from this continued arrangement. Treves is able to present Merrick’s case to the Pathological Society to enhance his reputation, eventually showing Merrick himself to the other doctors. While the reasons for his body abnormality is faulty by today’s standards, the elephant connection is not hard to believe for that time period. Current research concludes Merrick most likely suffered from a combination of Neurofibromatosis type I and Proteus syndrome. I’m recommending this movie because its whole production is one of the best. John Hurt’s portrayal of Merrick led to the widely recognized Academy Award category of Best Make-Up of today, as Hurt said to his wife during filming, “I think they finally managed to make me hate acting.” So yes, when an actor says this, you know it’s probably great, and it is in all respects.