The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Directed by: Rubert Julian. Written by: Elliott J. Clawson and Raymond L. Schrock, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux.
Plot: A beautiful up and coming opera singer (Mary Philbin) discovers that her mentor who creeps around behind the walls and never shows himself, is actually a weirdo (Lon Chaney), horrifically deformed, completely insane, and totally in love with her. Problems arise when this hot rich guy (Norman Kerry) who she used to be friends with when she was little shows up and offers to take her away or something.
Review: This is probably the first horror-inclined film I ever saw (I have had arguments with my friends about whether or not this constitutes as a horror film. My stance: it’s about a masked maniac who murders people and abducts young women. It’s as much a horror flick as Halloween), and I vaguely remember finding it extremely boring at the time (it was probably also my introduction to silent films, though I’m not one hundred percent sure of that).
I didn’t see it again until much later and enjoyed it a hell of a lot more, particularly since I had seen some other versions (the obnoxious musical version and the one with Herbert Lom) and read the book. I dunno, something about those things made this seem a lot better.
I mean, it’s also my better appreciation of cinema in general but… well… this movie is way better than the other versions I’ve seen (I’m going to hold out declaring it the best version ever until I see three or four more different interpretations), and it’s better than the book.
Lon Chaney is really good. I still find it hard to believe that he managed to produce such a talentless son, but I dunno, maybe it skips a generation. And, you know, he’s a scary guy. None of that sexy bullshit, he’s creepy and weird and insane. It still pisses me off that in the musical the guy was all sexy and shit. Really. And he kept going on about how hideous he was or whatever but… he was Gerard fucking Butler. Come on. They should have cast, like, Michael Berryman or somebody. That would have been totally fucking awesome. Or, if that’s too much, Rufus Sewell. He’s kind of hot but he’s still also creepy and weird looking.
“But what if [whoever] can’t sing?” You may ask. Then don’t make the movie a fucking musical. It had suck ass music anyway.
Moving on. Mary Philbin is sort of annoying (as most horror ladies are), but you don’t have to hear her talk so that’s a pretty major win. I think they should really go back to silent horror except in very special cases, mostly because of the women. I don’t know where these chicks come from or why they cast them (actually, I do know why they cast them…) but for some reason, every medium to low budget horror flick (and even some higher budget ones now) has to have at least one woman with a really fucking obnoxious voice and/or manner. This irritates the hell out of me because I know there are good actresses out there (who are probably also good looking and would probably also blow the director) who are getting overlooked for whatever reason.
But yeah, back to this movie. On top of whatever else I was just rambling on about, the movie is genuinely creepy. It creeped me out at least. Buddy sneaking around in the dark - spooky as fuck.
They just don’t make them like they used to…
Favourite Part: I know it’s a cliché, but I still find the masked ball scene particularly spectacular.
Other versions: Many. In addition to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and the Herbert Lom version, there’s the ‘43 with Claude Rains, Phantom of the Paradise, the ‘89 with Robert Englund, the Dario Argento version, and many many more.
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