Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Right. Let's get the story out of the way before we can talk about Lon Chaney Sr, shall we? Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel is the perfect basis for a Grand Guignol melodrama, which a silent horror film necessarily has to be.

The Phantom himself is, basically, the abusive and controlling boyfriend made into the basis of a horror tale with a gothic overlay (not a bad idea). Christine is a thick peril monkey from a time before feminism. Raoul is a thick aristocrat from central casting who is too stupid to save the day without a bid of deus ex machina from, er, a secret policeman. Yep. The secret police are apparently the goodies.

Anyway, Chaney is superb, and the make-up is everything it's made up to be. Of course, health and safety would never allow such things these days, and that's a good thing, but such things are part of the joys of silent cinema.

The whole thing is well paced and well shot, with good use of tinting; I like the use of red for the less glamorous underground locations, and the highly appropriate use of grey for that posh wet drip Raoul.

Incidentally, I'm pleased to have watched a DVD including the original live score. For a film based on an opera house, and with Christine's singling being integral to the plot, the soundtrack sort of matters, silent or not, 

This is truly superb, one of the finest horror films of all time. London After Midnight may now be lost to us, but it's brilliant that this example of Chaney's genius survives.

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