Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Phantom Of The Opera (1925)

This is the one that the great Lon Chaney is most remembered for and its understandable. His makeup for Erik, The Phantom is horrifying even by today's standards. When people went to see this thing in 1925 it must have scared the crap out of them. Chaney being a master in makeup came up with the deformed face all on his own and apparently it was his most uncomfortable face of all time.
He used a wire that went from under the bridge of his nose to up and around the back of his head, for a sort of pig snout. He used a sticky putty type substance on his forehead to lift certain parts of the skin and cause wrinkles in others. He even went as far as to put egg membrane on his eyeballs to give off a vacant, cloudy look. His eyes appear to be sunken in and his cheek bones protrude. This nasty face is the very essence of Chaney's character Erik and his contempt for people.
Erik or the Phantom hides deep within the cellars of the opera house (I believe in the movie he states that he is more then five cellars down). Man has condemned him for his awful appearance and his hatred has grown over the years in his isolation. The people of the opera house believe him to be a sort of ghost who appears, chooses a victim, strangles them and disappears. Very few have caught a glimpse of the so called phantom but most never live to describe him.
Once again Chaney plays a man scorned by love. He is betrayed by a young opera singer named Christine. Once he realizes that she is like everyone else and will never love him back he unleashes his hatred on her and the people of the opera house.
I personally love Chaney in this one because the character of Erik is slightly more sadistic then usual. He strangles people, attempts to set them on fire, he drowns people, drops giant chandeliers on Innocent people in the opera house seats and even tries to blow the whole house up which will result in the death of hundreds and all the while the audience can almost slightly sympathize with him.
Phantom Of The Opera is a little bit on the long side, especially for the 20's. I believe the full uncut version clocks in at around 110 minutes. A segment of the film was shot in color. It was one of the earliest films to use color at all and it really keeps the film moving along because its just so strange. The technicolor scene shows the Phantom at a masqurade party dressed as a skeleton in a red cape, holding a cane with a skull for a handle. I suppose this is supposed to be a reference to Masque Of The Red Death. Anyway the color scene seems to come out of nowhere and its over before long but apparently the original technicolor print had 17 minutes of color footage but the prints are long lost. The only color footage remaining today is this masquerade party.
Its amazing to think that horror films were taken seriously back in the day. Serious enough for a studio to allow for one of the earliest examples of color. Today horror flicks are almost throw aways. Its to bad these classic historical films have missing reel's and many films are lost completely but the new garbage that people put out today will be here till the end of time.

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