Title: The Phantom of the Opera
Release Date: September 6, 1925
Production Company: Jewel Productions
I have never seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera but through cultural osmosis I’m aware that the story is a great romance. In this 1925 film adaptation, there is a feint at a beauty and the beast type of romance, but settles on being a pure horror film. There’s really no doubt that Erik (Lon Chaney), the disfigured man who lives in the cellars below the Paris Opera, is supposed to be seen as a monster. While Erik has great facial makeup, designed by Chaney himself, what’s really creepy about him is his behavior. He mopes and he manipulates, he abducts the singer Christine (Mary Philbin) and when he doesn’t get his way he straight up kills people. Erik is essentially The Incel of the Opera.
I didn’t find this movie all to scary, but there are a lot of impressive shots and I enjoyed Chaney’s performance. I was also impressed by the set of the Paris Opera House. I know that they didn’t do much location shooting before the 1960s, but it really looks like they were in a large theater. Turns out that the set for the Opera House was one of the largest and most substantial sets built for a Hollywood movie up to that point (it used steel girders set in concrete). The set was built inside a building called Soundstage 28 on the Universal Studios lot where dozens of classic films were shot until the building was demolished in 2014! The Phantom set has been preserved and put in storage.
Some other details I liked about this movie:
- the ballerinas do a pirouette every time they’re frightened
- the owners of the Opera House selling it to new investors in the middle of a performance
- Erik’s “Red Death” costume
- Raoul (Norman Kerry) and Ledoux (Arthur Edmund Carewe) holding one arm in the air as they search for Erik, like total dorks
- the mob of angry Parisians is lead into the cellars by a cat!