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Australia 1925
Directed by
Rupert Julian
101 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Phantom Of The Opera, The (1925)

I have no idea why Gaston Leroux's 'Beauty and the Beast'-like 1908 tale of a disfigured man who lives in the bowels of the Paris and falls in love with an understudy whose heart he tries to win by terrorizing management into giving her the leading role has such appeal.   It has. however, as multiple film incarnations and, of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit stage musical attest. This 1925 version was the first attempt at putting the story on screen and despite its technical datedness it is probably remains the best (there are fans of Brian De Palma’s 1974 version, Phantom Of The Paradise, but more because of its schlock appeal than artistic merit).

Here, horror stalwart Lon Chaney in one of his classic roles, plays the Phantom and Mary Philbin is Christine Daaé, the girl he tragically dotes on. Produced by Ernst Laemmle, who also directed although he is uncredited for this, the film has some Expressionist qualities, particularly in the presentation of the Phantom’s underground world. Making the appropriate technical concessions this is still impressive film-making with Chaney’s cadaverous unmasked skull wildly grimacing at the camera being an iconic image in the history of film horror. The film’s original ending which gave the Phantom his redemption was replaced after it failed to resonate with test audiences to be replaced with the stock angry-torch-bearing-mob-pursue-monster-to-his-death ending that lessens the film but it is still an impressive effort.

FYI: Although originally released at 101 mins, the film was re-released as a sound film in 1929 and there have been versions with various running times doing the rounds since then.




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