“The Phantom of the Opera” Review

9 December, 2016

Year of Release: 1925
Director: Rupert Julian
Cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin

Synopsis: A tragic tale of obsessive love centred on a beautiful singer and her monstrous admirer, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a disfigured man’s catastrophic pursuit of romance inside the walls of the Paris Opera House.

Phantom of the Opera Review:

Although it was produced over ninety years ago, “The Phantom of the Opera” is still a heart-breaking interpretation of Gaston Leroux’s classic story and it thoroughly establishes the visual blueprint for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s later musical with an extravagant yet purposeful interpretation of the finest story Shakespeare never wrote. It’s a film where every inch of make-up and every strand of clothing has a place and a purpose as its lavish set provides a home for a star performer like no other.

Lon Chaney remains preserved in time as the finest Phantom ever captured on film and it’s a performance that emanates from the very core of the so-called ‘Man of a Thousand Faces.’ In a time where precisely zero prints of the infamous “London After Midnight” remain on the market, “The Phantom of the Opera” is the finest Chaney film in existence and it has unintentionally become an allegory for his place within the Hollywood system.

The Phantom is an outcast in a story of unrequited love, a man who gives every piece of himself only to be abandoned and betrayed by those who embody his deepest desires. It’s a story that shares a strange parallel with Lon Chaney’s real life experience as an actor. Despite making a great impression on audiences in the 1920s with his versatile performances, Chaney’s position was unsustainable and his later years market the mainstream transition to sound; preserving him in history as an older and less conventionally attractive performer trapped within the silent era.

In this breath-taking version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” the leading man’s movements cry out in pain as his self-applied make-up and multitude of costumes convey a person hidden behind layers and layers of meaning. While his character squirms as he’s painfully unmasked, the actor beneath remains hidden, his true face never once peeking out from behind the monster. Even Lloyd Webber’s musical allows for a glimpse of the Phantom’s true handsomeness but, for Chaney, there is none. In “The Phantom of the Opera” written words become shadows and descriptions become faces but, most poignantly of all, pain becomes reality in a tale of judgement and misunderstanding in the face of extreme suffering.



Review Date
The Phantom of the Opera