Phantom Of The Opera, The

871. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925-usa). Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman KERRY. “Sanctuary of song lovers, the Paris Opera House, rising nobly over Medieval torture chambers, hidden dungeons, long forgotten.” Lon Chaney, “The Man of 1000 Faces,” who specialized in portraying the grotesque and bizarre, was laity in his element as The Phantom.” It was quite simply, one of the best horror stories ever filmed. Like many good chillers, the story of The Phantom” is really just a love story, but a romance twisted and tortured out of reality and into something of dread…
The Paris Opera House is the setting for the entire film except for the final chase sequence through the darkened streets of Paris. Directed (by RUPERT JULIAN) as a somber continuous scream in the night, the film uses darkened hallways and dungeons, menacing shadows cast upon brick walls, gothic filigrees, gargoyles staring down from the roof, even a deadly still, black, underground lake, without so much as a ripple.
Who is The Phantom of the Opera? His name is Erik. More than that cannot be revealed now, but the gentleman secretly resides in the hidden depths of the Opera House, obviously a man of great wealth. His one consuming passion is for the beautiful Christine Daae, a singer in the Opera. Through his hidden intercessions, and an occasional murder, Christine rises to become the star of the Opera and her gratitude and love know no bounds. Emboldened, the Phantom leads her reluctantly into the catacombs, below the fifth basement, across the lake (the imagery of Charon ferrying dead souls across the River Styx is a master stroke), and into the Phantom’s hidden chambers. The Phantom’s face is never seen, hidden behind a mask. Promising Christine his eternal love, fame at the Opera and untold wealth, all he asks in return is that she honors his wish never to remove the mask. But ever a woman, Christine’s first sign of affection is to pull off his mask while he is seated at the organ (performing “Don Juan,” the opera whose hero is dragged down into hell!). In one of the most shocking scenes ever filmed, we glimpse the terrible face of the Phantom for the first rime. His life is shattered. Christine is repelled and disgusted, and the Phantom’s love turns to hate. Releasing Christine to return from his underworld to the Opera House above, he warns her never to love another, or he will kill them both.
The plot above is not what makes “The PhantomÓ the archetypal horror story. It is the cinematography, the sets (you can almost hear the rats scurrying through the empty rooms and water dripping m the distance), and the tinted Gold Masquerade Ball sequence (in which The Phantom dresses as Death, of course). All add to the horror that combines strangely with the pity we feel. As we empathized with King Kong, bravely “protecting” Fay Wray from the machine bullets meant only for him, so too do we feet sorry for this monster of the sewers, willing to die for his love. The final scene of ÒThe Phantom” holding back the mobs of Paris apparently with a bomb in his hand and then having the last laugh as he reveals his empty palm to them, is an image that will never be forgotten. Highly recommended. Silent film with music score, correct projection speed. 122 minutes. ÒSilentÓ Horror