The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera ★★★★

The Sixth Hoop-tober Sense Chapter Twelve: The Passion of St. Leonidas

Previously, finger food. And now:

"If I am the Phantom, it is because man's hatred has made me so!"

For all that this is Chaney's most famous performance, there's a peculiarly short amount of screen time spent with the unmasked Phantom. Perhaps, even before the Production Code, it was felt that there shouldn't be too much hideous monstrosity shown to audiences, lest there be fainting and running from theaters and scandal and whatnot. But maybe I just would have been greedy for more no matter what, because Chaney truly did create one of the most striking monsters of all time with the Phantom. And I mean "create" in more than just an acting sense: this is fairly common knowledge you can find on the movie's Wikipedia page, but I never get tired of reiterating that the makeup for the character was designed by Leonidas Frank Chaney himself, with no studio assistance. It's an incredibly expressive performance, with a whole range of menacing and poignant grimaces.

The movie apart from Chaney's iconic self is good, fine, maybe a tad drawn out in the first hour. Raoul is seldom all that interesting in any version of this story, so the scenes devoted to building him up as a romantic hero are a bit of a wash (and kind of off-putting, given that he ultimately uses her almost as much as the Phantom does). But Mary Philbin makes quite a good, put-upon Christine Daae, and the enormous, opulent sets for both the Opera House and the sewer lair are great to look at. (I always pity that poor horse in the sewer though—what kind of monster would keep an animal penned up down there? Oh, right.) I also like that this movie retains more weird shit from the novel than most adaptations, like the Phantom forcing Christine to choose between turning a metal scorpion or grasshopper, one of which will blow up the Opera House and bury everyone beneath it. The original stories behind some of these classic monsters are often stranger than our collective imagination remembers.

Up next, John Carpenter is cruel to a Donald Pleasance character. Also, the sun rises in the east.

Mitchell liked this review