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The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)

DVD Cover (Alpha Video)
Movie Connections:
The Phantom Of The Opera
> The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
> The Phantom Of The Opera (1962)
> Phantom Of The Opera (1998)
Genres:
Costume Horror, Gothic Film, Horror
Directors:
Rupert Julian Rupert Julian
Lon Chaney Lon Chaney
Ernst Laemmle Ernst Laemmle
Edward Sedgwick Edward Sedgwick
Starring:
Lon Chaney Lon Chaney
Mary Philbin Mary Philbin
Norman Kerry Norman Kerry
Arthur Edmund Carewe Arthur Edmund Carewe
Gibson Gowland Gibson Gowland

7.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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A grotesquely disfigured composer known as "The Phantom" haunts Paris' opera house, where he's secretly grooming Christine Daae to be an opera diva. Luring her to his remote underground lair, The Phantom declares his love. But Christine loves Raoul de Chagny and plans to elope with him. When The Phantom learns this, he abducts Christine. --TMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: March 13, 2015
While perhaps on a lower tier than Dracula or Frankenstein's monster, The Phantom of the Opera still enjoys a classic horror status. In fact, this 1925 movie paved the way for Universal's run of horror movies through the 30s and 40s.

The Paris Opera House is enjoying an incredibly profitable run of the classic Faust and its new owners are overjoyed. Still, they can't help but be a little unnerved about the former owners' remarks about a phantom lurking in the theater's basement. While in the past it's always just been a horrible figure only glimpsed by performers and stagehands, lately it's been making its presence known, specifically when it comes to an understudy diva named Christine Daaé. With a series of threatening letters, it's forced the lead of the play, Carlotta, to step down and give Christine the starring role. The phantom has also been speaking to Christine from behind the walls of her dressing room, and has successfully convinced her that since her new success is thanks to its actions, it's her master and she needs to break contact with her boyfriend, Raoul. After sabotaging a production that Carlotta chose to defy his orders, the Phantom decides it's time to make Christine its wife and takes her to its dwelling deep in the dungeons beneath the opera house. The singer quickly learns that The Phantom is actually not a phantom at all, but rather a reclusive man named Erik. She also learns that Erik is hideously deformed and will go to any length to ensure he can keep her.

Before I jump into the swing of things, let me just lay out a few disclaimers. For starters, I've never read the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux, so this review will be self-contained on the movie. Second of all, the original 1925 release is no longer available. The standard of this film nowadays is the Eastman House release, a re-edit done in 1950 using a few re-shot scenes and variations to the title cards. For purity's sake I would have preferred to review the original, but we work with what we have.

Phantom of the Opera is an interesting story since its adaptations have run the gamut from horror to romance. Again, I'm not sure how the book was, but this initial cinematic outing was squarely a horror film. Erik quickly proves himself to be absolutely ruthless in his quest for Christine's love, and his network of hidden doors and tunnels makes him an omniscient stalker. He's a terrifying character even before you factor that deformed visage into the equation. Also, I was a little surprised that the Phantom's trademark mask is nowhere to be found in this movie. Instead, his mask actually has facial details on it with a small veil hiding the bottom of his face. It wouldn't be until the novel was adapted again in 1943 before the more definitive mask would be seen, even if it was gray instead of the traditional white. Truth be told, Chaney's mask did look a little goofy, but that character could probably have stalked that opera house with a tutu and a propeller-beanie and still have been scary as hell.

While I suppose this would technically be labeled a black and white film, it's not the usual gray we associate with the phrase nowadays. Instead, it was common place to tint the monochrome different colors to alter the tone and setting. For example, the screen was tinted green while in the theater's basement, but when you descended further into Erik's home, it changed to a deep amber. This was a great touch, and it's a shame that it fell out of practice. Not only that, but there was a masked ball in technicolor that was absolutely breathtaking. The sudden transition set the tone of the ball's merriment beautifully, and Erik's Red Death costume was a sight to behold. Even more stunning, he soon removes his skull mask and moves to a darker area which really lets that color pop. It was a gorgeous scene, and I'll tell you, that bright red robe and his deformed face stuck with me much more than his usual mask did.

This is the first time I've ever watched a silent film, and while I don't know if this was the common standard or if Phantom of the Opera did a good job with it, it was a great experience. One thing I noticed is that half of the dialogue, the more obvious replies and emotions, aren't given title cards and are instead implied with pantomimes. It's a completely different type of acting, and I'm sure it wouldn't fly with today's ADD audience, but I loved it. Now, with no dialogue, music is used to fill that void and again, Phantom nails it. Considering it's a movie that takes place in an opera house, it would almost be unforgivable if they dropped this ball, but between music used from Faust and Gustav Hinrich's score, the music was nothing short of amazing. With all that said, I wasn't a fan of how the scenes of the actresses singing on stage or the band playing wasn't properly synced up with the audio. Now, they re-released the movie in 1930 with the audio synced up and spoken dialogue added, but again, I prefer to watch my movies in their purest available form.

The movie has long fallen into public domain, so it's freely available to watch on Youtube. In other words, you have no excuses for missing this. 9/10.
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George Snow #1: George Snow - added 03/18/2015, 05:28 PM
Isn't it fantastic? It's your first silent, there are SO MANY magnificent silents. Wait till you see The Hunchback of Notre Dame, West of Zanzibar, The Unknown or The Penalty.

Kino has released the original 1925 version on Blu Ray along with 2 1929 reissues in one package. They're all great.

If you get a chance and want a recommendation on (IMO) one of those endings that just flaw you, check out Chaplin's City Lights. All his films are fabulous, but the ending of CL is special, very very special.
Crispy #2: Crispy - added 03/18/2015, 07:47 PM
Chaplin as in Charlie Chaplin? I've seen a skit from Gold Rush that was hysterical. Wanted to look more into him.
George Snow #3: George Snow - added 03/18/2015, 08:40 PM
Yes, Charlie Chaplin.

I bought a 10 blu ray set from South Korea, many of his classics aren't available in the US on blu ray.

Buster Keaton is a completely different type comedian. But, his silents are magnificent. I didn't think I would appreciate him the way I did Chaplin, and I was wrong.

The one thing to remember when watching silents, there was no code for danger. So, many of the things that look dangerous and deadly, and they were.
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