Friday, 16 November 2012

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)

1925, Rupert Julian, 78 mins.

A mysterious figure stalks the Paris Opera House.





Although the film itself has a number of serious flaws, all can be forgiven for the iconic performance of Lon Chaney in the title role; one of the greatest pieces of silent film acting. Like all great tragic monsters – and Erik the phantom is an assuredly tragic figure despite his dreadful behaviour – Chaney’s creature conquers his grotesque ugliness, itself a triumph of make-up, through immense nobility and pathos.  He effortlessly dominates the film, which isn't hard to do since the supporting actors are a poor bunch and Norman Kerry’s young romantic lead Raoul is insipid. But the visual spectacle remains awe-inspiring, especially the opera house set, and the pace and drive of the narrative keep it remarkably watchable considering its age. The set-pieces are wonderful, especially the 2-strip Technicolor masked ball sequence and the legendary unmasking scene at the organ. 

NB: There are numerous versions of this film around. My favourite of them all is the 78 minute version available from Park Circus on Blu-Ray which has been stunningly restored. 

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