Monday 23 July 2012

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Spøgelset i operaen
I have a confession to make. Before seeing this version I had never before seen or read “The Phantom of the Opera”. It has just never been my thing. It is a book, a musical and several big selling movies, but it never once tempted me to see it. Of course I have heard of it before, who has not, but I am just one of those heretics who always avoided it.

This gives me the big advantage of seeing this elderly version of it with fresh if not unbiased eyes. I have no other version to compare it to and therefore cannot say if this is better or worse or even closer to the original than any of the other versions.

So, what do I think of it? Hmmm… I hope the other versions got away with it better than this one, though I fear not because some of the problems seem inherent in the story itself.

What this version has going for it is Lon Chaney. I am quite excited with him. Before doing this list I had never heard of him before, but now I have seen him in “The Unknown” and here in “The Phantom of the Opera” and based on those two performances he is something special. While his acting is better in “The Unknown” he is still terrific here if we gloss over the general overacting the movie suffers from. Lon Chaney’s face could not have been more fearsome if Peter Jacksons make-up team from “Lord of the Rings” had had a go at him. He is good.

While in general film is mediocre, this is not a big movie as such, the problem of the movie is the story. It is illogical on so many levels, sometimes even stupid, and I find myself getting more and more annoyed with the characters.

Let me give some examples.

Christine, the diva, hears the voice of the phantom, who promises her success and declare his love for her. She is obviously smitten by him and willing to forsake her flesh and blood boyfriend for the mysterious voice and this despite that the voice clearly intends to possess her calling himself her Master. Yet when he appears before her she is scared and shies away even though he has done or said nothing he did not do or say as a voice. What did she really expect from a manipulative dominant voice?

Okay, so he lets her get back to perform again. Actually long enough that she can take part in a masquerade, yet she meets with her old boyfriend in the theater to conspire and plan her escape to take place in connection with a performance. Why don’t they meet somewhere in town instead? There does not seem to be a requirement that she cannot leave the theater. I mean, do the artists actually sleep at the opera?

Some of the illogical events are even funny. Raoul, the boyfriend, and Ledoux, the policeman, sneak up on the Phantoms hideout very stealthily, when suddenly Raoul cries out for Christine and Erik, the phantom calls back “So you think you can outsmart the Phantom?” Well, obviously not; they have just stupidly revealed themselves. When the trap our two clever heroes are in gets flooded Christine pleads for their rescue and Erik, the insane psychopathic criminal, opens the trap and let them out even though he has them where he wants them to be and despite Christine has several times over proved unfaithful to him. Of course she does not even hesitate to go right back to Raoul and declare her love for him right in front of the Phantom. And no way have they surrendered. So who outsmarted who? They are all such geniuses.

A funny detail is also that it is not the super smart and resourceful secret policeman who brings down the Phantom, but an angry mob with torches. So let’s get out there in the street and let the street parliament save the day!

No, I cannot say this is a good movie. If the basic story is this awful I will blame it on that, but I just do not know. There are good and amusing highlights, though many of them are unintended, and it does not save the movie.

Ah, well, at least we get Lon Chaney.


  1. Yeah, the story is a bit creaky for sure, but you're right, this is all about Lon Chaney.

    I'm not a huge fan of the story of "The Phantom of the Opera" or its subsequent versions, but I do think it has been improved upon and polished up since this movie version.

    I love The Unknown! That movie is AWESOME!

    1. Well, I don't see how they could get much worse.

      The Unknown is indeed awesome and not just for Lon Chaney.

  2. I think this film is in the book because of the impact it had on audiences at the time, and a big part of that impact was the makeup that Chaney wore in the film.

  3. While I agree that the story itself, as told here, is far-fetched, you have to admit that the Phantom's underground lair is pretty awesome. Plus, the big reveal of the the Phantom is worth the price of the silly plot developments.

    1. Yes, it is a spectacular underground lair he's got himself, worthy of any superhero/super villain. He is also pretty awesome, this phantom.