The Phantom of the Opera ★★★★

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7 of 31 films,
7 of 6 decades: 1920s COMPLETED,
5 of 6 films before 1966,
2 Classic Universal COMPLETED,
2 of 6 films featuring work from...Lon Chaney (make-up)

I think I chose wisely watching the “1929 Reissue” Version of The Phantom of the Opera from the blu-ray. A brisk running time of 78 minutes, an ethereal score by the Alloy Orchestra, a fine transfer to 24 frames per second and hand-colored sequences brings this silent-era classic into the 21st century. A sacrifice of the purity of cinema history, but made for a cracking good story and that's all I wanted for this first viewing- to be entertained. As for the story, we all know it- it's made re-made at least once a decade- Andrew Lloyd Webber has his, Brian De Palma has his, even Robert Englund has his I need to go into it?

Lon Chaney, no matter if his face is covered by a mask or make-up, is an amazing actor. He expresses so much emotion through one of the few uncovered parts of his face- his eyes- that a dialogue card is hardly necessary. Although the visage Chaney's Phantom is famous and iconic, watching its reveal in the context of the film still has the power to shock after almost 100 years. The sets built for this are spectacular; you'd think this was filmed on location at the Paris Opera House since it is so detailed and near to 1,000 extras filled the interior. The bowels of the opera house where the Phantom dwells is Gothier Than Goth, all black shadows and weird angles (and black cats!)

The Phantom of the Opera isn't all doomy goth horror, it has moments of comedy provided by the new owners of the opera house who act as a sort-of Statler and Waldorf during the proceedings. The ballerinas scene where they're spooked by a mysterious fez-wearing creeper seems rather intentionally funny- they all move together as a unit like King Arthur's men in ...Holy Grail and one ballerina in particular keeps pirouetting while on the chase. The actress playing Christine the Object of the Phantom's Obsession is quite good, very subtle for silent films but her gentleman side-piece Raoul is a twat. I just wanted to grab him by his curly cue mustache and toss him in the Seine.

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