Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Criterion Collection Spine #579
(Halloween Movie Fest 2019)
"No living soul rides in that carriage. By the time I arrive, it's too late for a doctor. You know full well that I am no longer among the living."
The scenes featuring Death in The Phantom Carriage are fantastic and remarkable for a 1920s film. But the ole grim reaper is one of the only reasons I ranked this slog of a silent film so high. The rest of the film is focused on this 'humanist' story of redemption, which I really struggled to stay engaged with.
'Lord, please let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped.'
- The one great non Death related scene had to be when this guy breaks down a door with a hatchet to try to get at his family. I would be shocked if this did not inspire the 'Here's Johnny' scene from Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining'
- For some reason I have really struggled with these silent horror Criterions lately between this and 'Haxan'. But when it comes to the silent element, these films are much different. 'Haxan' had way too many titles cards, while The Phantom Carriage did not have enough. There would be scenes in this movie where they seemed to be talking and talking and talking, and then finally a title card would pop up
- The basic story is how this guy will be the new grim reaper because he died on New Year's Eve, and we get flashbacks to see how much of a drunk bastard he was, and how this lady wants to help redeem him
- Damn I was pissed when they go on and on with showing how this guy breathing on people is making them sick. And the nail in the coffin was when he ripped apart the sewing job a lady did on his coat. It would not surprise me at all if this film helped inspire the 'Christmas Carol' story
- The music was memorable in a few sections and at times some of the actors had good charisma to depict their emotions. But so much of it was just people talking in silence in rooms, which I found to be mind-numbing
Sorry if you love this film, but I'm tired of giving passes to films that are influential, but a chore to watch. Yes the Phantom Carriage has a few great moments, but it was way too long for a silent film. I'm glad I have checked it off my classic films list, but if I ever revisit it, I will just be forwarding to the scenes with Death and the guy chopping down the door.
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!