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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Phantom Of The Opera (1925)

An unseen menace "haunts" the Paris Opera House. In actuality, he's a man (Lon Chaney) with a disfigured face who wears a mask and lives in the underground tombs beneath the opera house. He's become obsessed with a young singer (Mary Philbin) in the opera and with his assistance, she rises from the chorus to a leading lady. But eventually demands her love in return for the stardom he has given her. The first of many film adaptations of the Gaston Leroux novel, this remains perhaps the most famous, most notably for Lon Chaney's performance. Considering his reputation as the man of a thousand faces, he spends most of the film covered with a mask and when his face is revealed, the make up renders his face immobile. Still, he's quite effective, mostly through the sheer physicality of his performance. As written, the role of the ingenue (Philbin) doesn't seem worthy of his obsession, she's shallow and quite unsympathetic. Visually, other than the first revelation of Chaney's disfigured face, the highlight of the film is the two strip Technicolor masked ball. I don't anyone who's seen it has forgotten Chaney's walk down the stairs, dressed in bright scarlet. The version I saw had a rousing if unoriginal score by Carl Davis. Directed by Rupert Julian. With Norman Kerry.

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