Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Phantom of the Opera" (1925)

This movie was originally a book by Gaston Leroux in about 1911 and if you don't know the story then here's Roger Ebert's summary of the piece. "Lovesick masked psycho meets girl, girl unmasks psycho, psycho goes on rampage story with everyone living happily ever after, except the people who die grisly deaths."

The highlights for me involved gunpowder, a random shoe scene, an ugly waterfowl bed, the Phantom unmasked, the horse and the 'Easy Bake Oven of Death'.

Lon Chaney Sr. plays the Phantom/Erik; Mary Philbin plays Christine Daae and Norman Kerry plays Vicomte Raoul de Chagney. You might be thinking, what the heck is a Vicomte? Well it's a nobleman next in rank below an earl. The dictionary truly is a many-splendoured thing.

The story starts with two managers taking over the Paris Opera House. It takes these two new numskulls a while to figure out that the opera ghost (Erik) is the one who really runs the opera house. This ghost is also in love with and training a chorus girl, Christine. But Christine's sweetheart is Raoul, the Vicomte.And so, a love triangle is born, kicking and screaming.

What's really exciting is you can actually see colour in this movie, fourteen years before The Wizard of Oz debuted on the silver screen. But it's really the play of light and shadow that gets your attention in this film. The unmasking of the Phantom was actually a little frightening and the director, faces Chaney out towards the audience so they're the first ones to see his true face. The scene apparently made the audience scream and faint. The makeup is really what gives the Phantom his gruesomeness and it was all designed and done by Chaney and apparently very painful to wear.

For all that it's a milestone it also has some parts that I could have done without. As a silent movie it had some slow sections and then some ridiculous sections. Coming from my point in history, some parts seemed silly or overdone, especially near the end Raoul. He looks exactly like a Muppet and his cape is going like no one's business. Overall though, it was entertaining.

Rating: 3.5/5

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