The Phantom Of The Opera (1962)

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Overall Rating 64%
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Herbert Lom
Herbert Lom
Heather Sears
Heather Sears
Edward de Souza
Edward de Souza
Thorley Walters
Thorley Walters
Michael Gough
Michael Gough
Review by Tristan
Added: August 01, 2007
As I have not seen the Lon Chaney Sr. original, the Robert Englund version, Argento's version, or the one that was released 2 or 3 years ago, this is my first experience with The Phantom of the Opera. It is one of the most influential horror stories ever written, and Phantom as the main character has become iconic in plays, operas, books and especially film. It was only a matter of time before Hammer decided to do their own version of it, as they have successfully done in the past with so many other legendary horror stories.

On the opening night of Lord Ambrose d'Arcy's (Michael Gough) newest opera, Joan of Arc, everything seems to be going afoul. The lead singer claims to have seen a terrifying figure in her dressing room. The conductor's music is missing, the drums and promotional posters have been slashed, and to top it all off, during the climax, a hanged man comes falling out of the curtains, sending the actors and audience into a panic. This "accident" is soon attributed to murder, not a suicide, and the star of the opera storms out, claiming she will never sing in the country again. Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza), the finest producer in London, begins auditions to replace the lead. A replacement is found in the lovely and talented Christine Charles (Heather Sears), who unfortunately has caught the eye of Lord d'Arcy. He has plans for her that involve much more than opera lessons.

Christine too, is visited in the dressing rooms by the voice of the Phantom (Herbert Lom). He tells her to keep away from d'Arcy, as he is a cruel and vicious individual. She tells Harry this, later over dinner, and the two decide to go back to the opera house to figure out just what is the meaning of this. While there, they are startled by a rat catcher, who meets his demise at the hands of the Phantom's Igor-like henchman. While Harry leaves to investigate this disturbance in a back room, the Phantom appears, beckoning Christine to join him, as he will teach her everything she needs to know about opera singing. She screams and faints out of sheer terror. Shortly afterwards, Christine is removed from the opera, as the slimy Lord d'Arcy is furious that she ignored his advances. Harry visits her to give his condolences, and discovers a sheet of music mixed in with a collage. He inquires about it, and the housekeeper says it belonged to one Professor Petrie, who died in a fire. After further investigation, Harry discovers that not only did this man not really die, but his face was badly burned by acid, and he ran screaming into a nearby river. Also, after careful inspection of the music, it turns out that Lord d'Arcy did not compose all his own music, but this Professor actually wrote it all and had it stolen from him.

After returning home from an enchanting day with Mr. Hunter, Christine is kidnapped and brought back to the underground lair of the Phantom. Or for those of you who haven't figured it out yet, Professor Petrie. Harry discovers the entrance to the Phantom's lair, and enters through the sewers. When he arrives there, Petrie tells the story of how he sold his music to Lord d'Arcy to get it published, only to find that d'Arcy had said it was his own, and printed it as such. He broke into the printing house to destroy the work when a fire broke out. Desperate, he threw a pot of acid they used to etch out the printing slabs onto the fire, sending flames and acid all over his face. The rest is history.

As usual, the movie looked spectacular. Terence Fisher just has a knack for taking a classic tale and bringing the characters to life, while using the most elaborate and elegant sets. This is one Hammer film that does not rely on violence and horror to scare you. Rather, it focuses on atmosphere and mood to tell the classic story. Much of this film was revolved around the music, and while for some this might be a turn off, I found it very enjoyable. It slowly built the movie up very nicely, and allowed us to identify with the characters more. Michael Gough's portrayal of the awful Lord d'Arcy was very memorable, and he is a fantastic villain. Alfred no! Herbert Lom's role as the Phantom must have been very difficult, as the mask covers his entire face, meaning he had to rely solely on the emotions in his voice to make his character sympathetic as well as menacing. The ending, while rushed, really took me by surprise and was quite shocking, I must admit. I did not see that coming at all.

While this was yet another fantastic Hammer film, it is not quite as good as some of the other films they have produced, and even more so, not as creative as some of Fisher's other films. While I enjoyed it, I know that much more could have been done with it, and I feel as though they had to wrap it up quickly, even though the running time was just over 80 minutes. For me however, this will always be the Phantom of the Opera that I base every other one on, and I do think it will be quite tough for one to exceed it in my eyes.

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