Blogathon

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

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The Phantom of the Opera, Rupert Julian (1925) [93 minutes]

This is my entry for the Universal Backlot Blogathon.Please click the link and check out my fellow bloggers’ posts! I’d also like to thank Kristen [Journeys in Classic Film] for hosting this fabulous blogathon! ūüôā
 

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! :D

Diabolique [Les Diaboliques]

Diabolique, Henri-Georges Clouzot (1955) 114 minutes

This is my entry in the The Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made)¬†Blogathon. Please click on the link and check out the entries by my fellow bloggers! I would like to also thank¬†Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci [Tales of the Easily Distracted]¬†and Rebecca Barnes [ClassicBecky‚Äôs Brain Food] for putting this all together and letting me be a part of it ūüôā

Alfred Hitchcock is the undisputed master of the thriller. He did it better, more often and more consistently than anyone else. Others have made excellent thrillers, but they are always compared back to the master. Hell, these films are even called “Hitchcockian Thrillers.” ¬†This genre is the focus of this lovely, little blogathon. They are basically thrillers that are so freaking good, that could have been made by Hitchcock, himself. Clouzot’s¬†Diabolique holds an interesting place¬†amongst¬†these films. Hitchcock almost made this film. Diabolique¬†is based off a novel by¬†Boileau and Narcejac. Hitchcock was actually looking for the rights to this, but Clouzot beat him to it! There were no hard feelings from Hitchcock, however. He later adapted another¬†Boileau and Narcejac novel with¬†Vertigo¬†(which is one of my favorites). Also, he reportedly showed¬†Diabolique¬†to those who helped him make¬†Vertigo¬†and¬†Pyscho as a great example of a thriller.

Diabolique¬†is about a wealthy, kindly woman, Christina Delassale (Vera Clouzot¬†(the director’s wife)) who is tormented and abused by her gold-digging husband, Michel Delassale (Paul Meurisse). They run a boarding school for little boys. Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) is a teacher at the school and also Michel’s not-so-secret mistress. Michel is quickly characterized as the¬†villain in the film. He is horrible to his wife and mistress both. He buys rotten food for the children of the school and hands out¬†outrageous¬†punishments for the slightest¬†offenses. Nicole, surprisingly, is Christina’s friend. They have struck up an odd partnership and are out to get rid of Michel. While Nicole pushes for action to be taken against this horrible man, Christina is much more¬†hesitant. These two women are set up as diametric opposites. Nicole is a taller, more masculine blonde. She is anything but passive. Christina is much more¬†sensitive¬†and hesitant to act. Her appearance is much more fragile and feminine than Nicole. She is also ¬†a foreigner and a devout Catholic with heart issues (apparently she’s sickly and doesn’t deal with stress well). There are also a number of smaller characters who serve to add some humor to this dark film.

I’m not going to get into much more of the plot or characterization. If you have never seen¬†Diabolique, you really should avoid spoilers like the plague. It is¬†jam-packed¬†with shocks, twists and turns. If you are watching it for the second, third or tenth time, you will see many little hints and clues scattered throughout the film. Also, the cinematography and lighting for this film are absolutely¬†stellar. There is a lot of play with shadows, especially in the most “important” moments in the movie. This film can hold its own with any Hitchcock movie and is considered one of the greatest French thriller of all time.

Creepy Credits:. The words are projected on a filthy pool of water, which is constantly rippling. The music starts off as a standard, pretty creepy score. Then the voices of young boys are introduced into the music. After that an organ starts to play the theme (this is were I was getting pretty weirded out). Finally the original theme comes into this mix even louder with the organ and the choir continuing to play/sing (unmistakably the score to a very scary movie!).

How to Watch:¬†Do yourself a favor and watch this at night in a dark room. I’ve watched in the middle of the afternoon and its not just not the same.

Who to Watch This With:¬†Probably not the best for young children. I don’t want to say much more (for fear of getting into spoilers), but there are some rather¬†disturbing¬†images, which may lead to nightmares… and not only for the little ones!

Final Verdict:¬†Diabolique¬†is a wonderful example of a suspenseful, intelligent and nuanced thriller. It is beautifully shot and the plot is masterfully crafted. ¬†Whether it’s the setting or the characters, this movie is unmistakably French. And to give credit where credit is due: Clouzot, himself, is a wonderful director, who shines in this film.¬†Its totally like Hitchcock, but not really…¬†Maybe thats a bit of a cop-out from me, but I don’t mean it to be. Just give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, watch it and let me know what you think! :D

Updates: 2 Blogathons and a Contest.

Hey lovely readers! Here are some things that I will be taking a part of over the next few months!

This blogathon starts today! Be sure and click on the picture above and check out everyone’s¬†submissions. The posts are spread out over about a week. My contribution will be posted by next Tuesday (7/10), so make sure and check back then!

I am also participating in a writing contest about classical film. This should be very fun (I love a good competition :P).

Kristen over at Journeys in Classic Film¬†is hosting her own blogathon! I will be taking part, but I still have no idea which film I’ll be doing. If you are interested in joining in there is plenty of time. Just head over there and contact her.