Blu-ray Review: The Phantom of the Opera | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 16th, 2021  

The Phantom of the Opera

Studio: Kino Lorber

Oct 28, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Although it takes a few generous liberties with the storyline, 1925’s silent The Phantom of the Opera may be the most faithful to Gaston Leroux’s much-adapted novel. (In the film, the Phantom has escaped from a prison for the criminally insane, and is a notorious “master of the black arts”—now that’s a twist you don’t see in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s version.) It’s a now-familiar tale of a disfigured man living under the Paris Opera House who stops no cost to help his feminine obsession become a great opera star, only to be turned on once his true face (and true nature) are revealed.

An early entry in the horror canon of cinema, Phantom is probably best remembered for Lon Chaney’s chilling, self-applied makeup, which holds up well even 90 years later. (Even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ve probably seen his character’s face somewhere before—it’s something like half-skull, half-pig.) It’s a very elaborate piece of filmmaking from the silent era, and many of the sets—particularly the sewers beneath Paris—are still impressive, as are the many scenes featuring what must be hundreds of extras. Phantom features a wonderful technicolor Bal Masque scene—the Phantom’s morbid Red Death costume still pops out from the screen—and, though shot without color, features many hand-tinted scenes that help set the mood and give the illusion of various lighting hues. All of its technical achievements aside, Phantom is—most importantly—still pretty darn creepy after almost an entire century.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release strives to be the definitive edition of the film, and it’s hard to imagine it will be dethroned at any point in the near future. Two versions of the movie are included: the restored 1929 version, as well as the original 1925 theatrical release, which flopped on release and had a few subplots trimmed. (This version hasn’t survived the decades too well, sadly—it’s presented here mostly as-is for posterity’s sake.) There are also excerpts from a partially-lost sound version of the film, a stills gallery, the option to watch the film alongside its original screenplay, an interview with the contemporary score’s composer, and a pair of vintage videos depicting street views of Paris around the time of filming. All in all, if you’re interested in this original, silent Phantom, you couldn’t do better.

Author rating: 7/10

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