The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) – While the “Golden Age” of the Universal Monster movies began in 1931 with Dracula, Universal Studios was not a total stranger to the horror genre. They had some big hits starring Leonidas Frank Chaney, known as the Man of a Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney. Chaney was rightfully celebrated as a make-up genius. He believed in using as little makeup as possible in order to main the use of his facial expressions. He had hits like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and London After Midnight, but his most iconic role is Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. Based on the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera is probably Universal’s biggest horror movie of the silent film era. Nowadays, the story is probably familiar to audiences as an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (and subsequent 2004 film adaptation with Gerard Butler) but this film is more a tragic horror story in the classic mold of the Universal Monster films.

The Paris Opera House is renowned for its extravagant performances, but it is also plagued by a mysterious “Opera Ghost.” He makes demands of the show’s producers under penalty of sabotage. He threatens the star of the show, Carlotta (Mary Fabian), and her mother (Virginia Pearson) and adviser her to be “ill” for a show so that her understudy, Christine Daae (Mary Philbin), may take her place. The Phantom hides in hidden passages throughout the Opera House, and has been helping Christine become a better singer. His motives are not entirely altruistic. He is madly in love with Christine and wants to take her to his subterranean home to live with him forever. However, Christine is in love with Vicomte Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry) and he feels the same. Erik, the Phantom, is rather the jealous type…

The set design of the Opera House is simply marvelous. It’s large and detailed and the opera productions look pretty impressive too. The attention to detail is pretty great. As far as visuals go, the look of Chaney’s Phantom is appropriately gruesome. As mentioned before, Chaney’s makeup techniques allow him a wider range of facial movement than the latex pieces that would become more common in later years for makeup effects. That allows him to give a real performance. The Phantom has had a hard life on account of his deformity (which is greatly elaborated on in the novel). He’s lonely and think he has a kindred spirit in Christine. He’s wrong but haven’t we all been there? True most of us don’t kidnap the objects of our unrequited affection, but we can still relate to the impulse… or have I said too much? All kidding aside, Christine does actually seem rather receptive to his advances until the big unmasking. Then again you can’t expect someone to start a relationship with someone they find physically repellent. The Phantom’s lovelorn psychosis explains why he’s been one of the more romanticized of the Universal Monsters (again, I reference the musical). While singing about love may make for a good play, the horror of a deformed mad man makes for a great classic horror movie.

One Response to “The Phantom of the Opera (1925)”
  1. Tristan Schikora says:

    I really love phantom of the opera since the music is great and also the story line is top of the line compared with other opera performance. ,”:.`

    Warmest regards

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