The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Review
“A Million Thrills to Thrill Millions”
Synopsis: A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer.
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The Phantom of the Opera not only earns its place in horror history, but is also held in high esteem among cinephiles generally. It is famous not only for Lon Chaney‘s performance as the Phantom, but also for his self-created ghoulish makeup. While falling prey to some of the usual missteps of silent movies, it nevertheless remains a beautiful and compelling take on Gaston Leroux’s novel.
The Phantom of the Opera earns its “A” for sets alone. The lush beauty and complexity of the sets are clear even in over-duplicated, poor quality versions of the movie. The three-tiered theater and stage were actually built for the movie, as well a massive motorized turntable. Costuming is also gorgeous, and the cinematographer makes good use of light and shadow in the shots. The result is a stunning picture of life in a Parisian opera and provides the perfect backdrop for Lon Chaney’s anguished love story.
Though Lon Chaney is intriguing as the Phantom, Mary Philbin’s performance as Christine leaves something to be desired. She does damsel in distress quite well, but her over-the-top sudden hysterics provide an at-times laughable counterpoint to Chaney’s cool, collected Phantom. The other cast members play their parts well, and the manager in particular are very entertaining diversions from the unsettling atmosphere of the Phantom’s lair.
Although I’m not generally very interested in silent movies, The Phantom of the Opera is a worthwhile exception. The beauty and care of its creation infuses every scene, even in black and white, and it’s easy to get transported into the depths of Paris as you watch. Like most silent movies, it may feel a little slow to modern audiences, but I highly recommend it to those curious about horror history or fans of the novel.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: A-
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