The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera ★★★★

Whether or not a film withstands the test of time is usually a reliable indicator of quality, so the fact that Rupert Julian's silent adaptation of Gaston Leroux's much loved novel The Phantom of the Opera is still genuinely scary nearly a hundred years on is a testament to its worth as a timeless chiller.

A wonderful blend of gothic horror and theatrical melodrama, the sets and costumes are almost as impressive as Lon Chaney's terrifying make-up, which apparently made audience members faint in 1925 upon its sudden revelation, in what has to be one of the earliest instances of a jump scare in cinema. The limitation of not being able to use sound actually works in its favour, the eerie atmosphere and expressive performances of the cast are only accentuated by the need to rely on visuals.

If there was ever a need to prove that silent films have genuine worth other than being mere antiquities, this is a shining example of the early artform remaining at the top of the pile of its numerous remakes and adaptations, even the very commendable Claude Rains version from 1943 doesn't quite match the purity and simplicity of its predecessor.

This is now in the public domain an can be enjoyed by everyone for free, in high quality on YouTube.

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