I'll come up with something in a minute.

Movie Review: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera (1925 Dir. Rupert Julian and others)

Welcome my friends to the show that never ends…

Phantom is another movie that I always find to be more tragic than horrific. There are freights to be had, but the movie is much more about the tragedy and the insanity of Erik that always brings me back to it. Erik isn’t just a mad man he’s a mad man who feels that he’s been driven to perform the evils he’s done. You have a sort of early stalker mentality going on where Erik feels he’s owed something by young Christine. He trained her, he loved her, and she cast him aside when she sees his horrific visage.

After this shot, the urban myth of a munchkin hanging himself lasted for decades.

I’ve always had trouble having any sympathy for Christine. She’s not terribly bright, and she is amazingly selfish. It takes her nearly an entire reel to figure out that her masked benefactor is the Phantom, and she figures that out long after she’s taken to the underground lake, and the crypt like lair of Erik’s base of operations. She doesn’t even seem that concerned with the fact that Erik kills lots of people in order to advance her career.

Oh darling, my head is filled with cotton, but my mustache is fabulous!

I mean Christine even fails to follow even the most simplistic instructions. I mean he makes one simple rule, that she can’t ever see his face. Not hard, not tough, very easy. All he does is tell her she can’t ever see his face, fearing that his face would make her freak out, and that all she must see is the mask. So what does Christine do?

Unmasking goes here
One simple instruction, and she fails.

Yeah, she yanks it off the first chance she gets! Then, her attitude totally changes. When before, her eyes were bright and her face in a state of sexual excitement, she reacts only in terror after seeing him. I can admit that she does get a little creped out by the mask, and the room she wakes up in does rather smack of a stalker fan boy palace, but still she’s sort of hot for him right up until she takes the mask off. I mean this is a guy who totally flatters her at every step, what young girl wouldn’t be excited. Still though, I have trouble feeling sympathy for her over Erik. I mean, after all this horribleness, she still goes on stage even though she knows that Erik is out there and killing people.

You ever notice it’s alwas me on the left and you on the right?

Once the unmasking happens though, the rest of the movie really starts rolling. It’s the scene after this, when Erik releases Christine and allows her to go back to the real world that we get the Masque Ball. In the version I used for screen caps, this version is entirely shot in color. I have 3 different versions of this movie on DVD, but the one I used has the most color scenes and for a few other reasons I used it for this. The Masque is the big scene in the movie for me, even more than the unmasking scene which has some major feeling to it. I like the masque because of the technical aspects dealing with the color, but it is a great scene even in blank and white.

Dude, shut up.

After the masque, we get the final opera performance. Christine foolishly goes back on stage, instead of running away, and she pays the price for it. Erik kidnaps her and her boyfriend and a police officer (who strangely has a fez and mascara) follow them. The hero boys get trapped in a torture chamber and then we get one of the oddest bits of the whole movie.

What you can’t see is that he’s sitting on a swordpoint.

As the heroes are trapped in a room that is being heated, baking the boys alive, Christine is given a choice. Erik gives her a pair of brass anthropoids, a grasshopper and a scorpion. If she turns the scorpion, she enslaves her self to Erik and saves her lover. If she turns the grasshopper she blows up the Opera House but is released. As she turns it, her boyfriend and the cop are almost drowned anyway.

My pokemon, let me show you them!

Then there is the death of The Phantom, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. After being hidden for as long as he was, the mob suddenly knows where his lair is and comes to get him. He escapes in a carriage, which falls over and sends him running to the Seine. Entertainingly enough they run in front of the façade of Notre Dame that was made for Hunchback. Of course he’s killed and thrown in the river, but not after making everyone think he had a grenade for a moment.

Why yes! I am interested in lowering my long distance bill!

Sadly, Chaney is the only thing that keeps me coming back. He outstrips everyone else and the movie falls down and dies whenever he’s not on screen. This happens with a lot of Chaney’s movies though. This isn’t a bad movie, but much of the movie looks so much better during the bits where Chaney reputedly took over the direction. The movie isn’t the best thing ever, but it does carry a good mood with it and is a bit creepy.

Pimping ain’t never been easy.

I have three copies of this movie on DVD. These came in two packages and I’ll deal with the oldest first. My first version was built from the 1929 version of the movie, more on what I mean by that a bit later. It has a new soundtrack by Gabriel Thibaudoux, which is something you regularly find with silent movies on DVD. Any old music or possible sound is often gone from the four winds, which requires new music to be produced. The picture has a certain amount of scratches and isn’t as well restored as some later versions will prove to be. It’s entirely tinted, which was a common practice as the time, to show moods. It contains the color sequence for the Masque Ball, but it’s not as large a piece as the version I used for the screen caps here. I’ll provide some comparison later.

This comes from the disc I talked about above.

The other version I have is actually a two disc set containing a more improved version of the 1929 release and a 1925 version. The 29 version is produced from several different prints, because much of the film has gone missing over the years, for this reasons there is a slight cobbled together feel to this version. Fortunately it rarely becomes an issue. The 29 version has a much clearer transfer, free of the scratches that mired the last version. Of course this newer version came something like 5 years later so there was technical advances. This version is freer of scratches and warpings as well. There is a musical score, this time by Carl Davis, and an early attempt at a soundtrack. Some voices were recorded on disc to run with the movie. They took those and fit them to the movie to produce a film with sound for about 2/3rd of the movie. There is also an audio commentary on this disc as well as deleted scenes and some more audio.

Those Vouge photographers just wouldn’t stop hounding him

On the second disc of that set is the original 1925 version, sans colour and with a different music score by Jon Mirsalis. The 25 version contains scenes not found in any other version of the movie, but is a much more damaged print of the movie as a trade off. There are a few interviews and a section of Faust (the opera in the movie) from another feature it seems. All in all, you can get something like 5 different versions of the movie if you really want to collect them all.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment