Since I was around 12 I have been a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera. It all began when I went to the theater with my grandparents. I saw it in the Spanish equivalent of Broadway. Since that day me and my little sister have been completely entranced by the story of the poor, damaged Phantom.We still pop in a DVD of the 2004 version whenever we need our fix (that movie is one of my top guilty pleasures :P). The other day I was browsing through Netflix and saw this version was available for Instant Streaming. Imagine my excitement! And believe me, it did not disappoint.
Julian’s The Phantom of the Opera is very different from the other, Andrey-Lloyd-Webber-y ones that I know and love. Firstly, it is not a musical (it’s a silent movie, that would be rather impossible). Also, it sticks closer to the novel than Webber’s version does. Even with the lack of singing and dancing, this version feels much more operatic than any of the ones I have seen before. It is high melodrama with extremely theatrical acting. The sets are wonderfully crafted and areas, like the phantom’s lair, are just as eerily beautiful as one would imagine them to be. The film is tinted different colors (amber, red, green) depending on the scene and the location. This only adds to this already atmospheric film.
I have yet to mention Lon Chaney’s performance as Erick, the Phantom. He is so great that I figured that he needed his own paragraph! He is so engaging while on screen; your eye cannot help but be drawn to him. There are moments in the film when he is shrouded in shadow or covered in cloaks and a mask, but he still manages to be such a presence on-screen. When he takes off his mask he only improves. Under pounds and pounds of makeup and wires, which Chaney would apply himself, he still manages to emote. Chaney makes this monster human. This movie is worth watching for him alone.
The Ending: SPOILERS ahead: The ending for this film has kind of a crazy history. Initially it was the same as the novel, where the Phantom lets Christine go and then dies of a broken heart. Apparently the audience at the time didn’t like it, so they filmed an alternate ending. This other ending is the one that you can see today. Sadly, the original appears to be lost! This makes me quite upset. The “new” ending just destroys the Phantom’s redemption arc, which is part of what makes him such an amazing character.
Quality: The quality of the film is pretty bad. I’m not sure if it’s just the one on Netflix, but it is very spotty and grainy. It is still watchable, but I just thought I should give you a heads up. If there is a better version out there please let me know!
How To Watch: Silent movies are tricky. You really have to pay attention, more than a sound movie, to really get everything out of it. So, I wouldn’t recommend watching it when you have a million things to do. This movie really needs to be watched in a dark room where you can just let yourself be transported into the opera house.
Who To Watch With: The Phantom is really very scary looking, so probably not the best for little kids. Other than that, I think anyone can enjoy this! Even if you hate the Webber version, give this a try. It is a very good film and everyone should give it a shot.
Final Verdict: This is an amazing, atmospheric, operatic film. Chaney is outstanding as the Phantom; and if anything else just watch it for him. I have yet to show this to my sister (my fellow Phantom enthusiast) and I cannot wait to see her reaction. It is really a wonderful film. Certain scenes are so beautifully rendered that they are likely to stay in your head long after you watch them.
Now, watch it and let me know what you think!