Chelsea Smile

The great Conrad Veidt (he of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) as Gwynplaine in The Man Who Laughs (1928), whose 'permanent rictus grin' is given him as a child by a surgeon, ordered by King James II to punish an offence caused by his nobleman father.

The film is fundamentally a melodrama (with the protagonist as a tragic hero) but has come to be seen as a horror classic. The story is based on Victor Hugo's tale of craving and desire, L'Homme Qui Rit (1869). This, in turn, was Bob Kane's inspiration, of course, for The Joker.

With reference to the project and London folklore, mutilation of this type has a root in the 'Chelsea Smile'. Inflicted, according to lore by Chelsea football fans, it somehow is a story that holds its place alongside Spring Heeled Jack and other 'bogeyman' tales in the way it taps undilute fear. This is C'est Moi Ce Soir's Ms. Clinton in the act (via Soma Gallery).

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