Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Phantom of the Opera


The IMDb lists eleven versions of this story. There is a German one from 1916 and of course the musical version from 2004. This is the most famous, the one everybody remembers … but I don’t think many people have actually seen the movie. What we all know is the famous scene of Lon Chaney being unmasked, and the horrific ordeal he had to endure to look like that.

It’s actually hard for me to rate this movie. There are several versions, and since it is in the public domain, there are many kinds of copies out there. I happened to get a pretty bad one. The sound track has nothing to do with the action on screen, it’s just some random classical stuff. The print is pretty bad. There is a restored version that includes the sequences that were shot in color. I might want to see that …

… and I might not. Sound and picture quality aside, I didn’t think this was a very good movie. I am a big fan of silent comedy and many silent dramas, so it’s not the lack of sound that bothers me here, it is mostly the snail-like pace. It is very slow. The camera lingers on uninteresting scenes. Almost all the scenes are too long, could easily have been cut by a third. As an example, making a silent film about an opera has a built-in challenge, doesn’t it? Dialogue is one thing, you can use cards, but singing? All the shots of Christine Daae singing are far too long. They should not last more than about fifteen seconds, in my opinion, then cut to something else, then cut back. But here the camera is trained on her and it just goes on and on and on … I was actually surprised at how bad it all was. I had been eagerly prepared to really like this classic. But I didn’t. Sorry.