Jonathan Case’s review published on Letterboxd:
**16th Watch of Hooptober 6.0**
A Film Featuring the Work of Lon Chaney, A Film from Before 1966 and A Classic Universal Horror Film
Admittedly, I had trouble keeping in this, at times. While there are exceptions, lengthy silent films are difficult for me. However, it's Lon Chaney that kept this film interesting. The supporting cast is solid, but its the efforts of the titular Phantom that move things along.
Now, I liked the cinematography, but given the quality of the print transfer, its hard for me to judge this aspect to the best of my abilities. That being said, there were a number of shots, particularly the ones underground, that I really liked. The shadows coupled with the, Dracula like castle vibes that they gave off (pre-Todd Browning's film too), were atmospheric and meshed well with the Phantom's persona.
Lon Chaney Sr. is absolutely wonderful both on the technical front as well as the performance one as well. He brought to life the look for the title character long before marketing had the now classic half mask to fall back on. Chaney's vision is grotesque and zombie-like long before the latter creature was even a part of the horror pantheon. His performance is menacing and, at times, even made me think of Max Schreck's Count Orlock from Nosferatu.
I can see how the success of a film such as this launched the classic Universal Horror lineup of films. Thankfully, the execs at the time were wise enough to appreciate Chaney's talents and kept him on board going forward. It's also fun, looking back, now knowing that his son, Lon Chaney Jr. would follow, almost directly, in his father's footsteps and yet succeed in such a way that the two are both equally synonymous in horror history.
The Phantom of the Opera is one I'm glad I watched and if you're at all a fan of silent films or want to go back to the very beginning and see where the Classic Universal Horror films began, this should make for quite the interesting presentation.