The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera ★★★

In the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House a phantom looms. He has taken an interest in a young opera singer and will do whatever necessary to further her career...and then have her for himself.

That is the premise of "Phantom of the Opera", a story that has endured and been remade a dozen times. But this, arguably, is the most famous version of the tale. Lon Chaney is definitely the most famous Phantom. His makeup within the title role is still creepy as hell, even after 90 years. The reveal of his face is still a justifiably famous image. His face is haunting and unsettling, and few horror monster makeups have matched it in the decades since.

Unfortunately, the film moves at a rather sluggish pace and the characters are extremely thin, which means that this movie gets a lot less captivating as it rolls along. I loved the opening sequence where a gaggle of ballerinas run around the catacombs hoping to/fearing to find The Phantom. That was just delightful. The Phantom has some neat kills and sometimes interesting plans as well, but ultimately the film needed a little more energy to match its sometimes haunting visuals. The two-strip technicolor masquerade sequence is a standout, and the way the Phantom stalks people through the underground river breathing through a glorified straw is pretty neat, but I didn't care for any character aside from the Phantom and even he could've used a bit more development to match his striking look.

I admire Chaney's makeup, sure, (he smeared egg white over his actual eyeballs to make them look cloudier and creepier...that's dedication!) but the movie needed a little more to be a thoroughly successful experience. It's by no means bad, just a tad ponderous at times. Still essential viewing for that makeup, though.

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