December 24, 2015

The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Review #774: The Phantom of the Opera.

Lon Chaney (Erik, The Phantom of the Opera), Mary Philbin (Christine Daaé), Norman Kerry (Vicomte Raoul de Chagny), Arthur Edmund Carewe (Ledoux), Gibson Gowland (Simon Buquet), John St. Polis (Comte Philippe de Chagny), and Snitz Edwards (Florine Papillon) Directed by Rupert Julian (with additional uncredited work by Edward Sedgwick and Lon Chaney)

After a bit of shopping on the Eve of Christmas, I decided to watch a film that I had planned to do earlier in the year but had forgotten to. 90 years after its release, all of the cast members had died, but it was only last year that the final cast member (Carla Laemmle, playing a prima ballerina) died, which was also when Soundstage 28, a set made for the movie that was demolished. Naturally, the one scene that is most memorable is the reveal of the Phantom himself, makeup (created by Chaney himself) and all. It shocked audiences in 1925, and it still looks shocking now, in a way that CGI can never duplicate. Of course the sequence in color (with the Phantom as the Red Death, most notably) is also a highlight, particularly for the time it was shown in. It's a melodrama that lasts for...a run time that depends on what version you are watching. The original release was 101 minutes, but when it re-issued in 1930 with sound, it lasted 101 minutes. The version I watched lasted 107 minutes, so I guess I won out with the movie. The movie certainly sets itself well with regards to the mysterious aspects of the Phantom, but also with the character himself, presented as more than just someone who stalks the opera, but one of misery and hope, masked in deformity. Of course he also was once a prisoner on Devil's Island before he escaped, but still. Chaney truly dominates the movie, in part due to the makeup, but also his ability to act so well without sound. The chandelier scene is treated a bit low key (compared to other scenes), but it is enjoyable to watch a chandelier fall down, especially due to its size. This is a technical marvel in terms of its makeup by Chaney, but also a good horror film that was one of the first films in the Universal Monsters series. Go see it.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

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