Soap Opera: “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925)

     How fortunate for Mary Philbin that in her portrayal of fledgling opera singer Christine Baaé, she is not under the technical requirements to convincingly render the voice of an operatic diva, as per the evidence onscreen, the capacity to compliment her role with more than an embarrassing assortment of swoons, cringes and teetering impressions of drunken whirlagigs seems quite beyond her capabilities.

     Rupert Julian’s 1925 film of Gaston Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, its first cinematic translation, is known primarily as a vehicle for Lon Chaney’s extraordinary make-up transformation and an impressively effective unmasking scene. And that’s all. There’s a good reason for a general lack of similar excitement over the remaining aspects of the films, as quite simply as either a successful adaptation of the novel, or as an example of a grandiose spectacle with hints of mystery and the Grand Guignol, the film is a disappointing rendering to all but the most melodramatically inclined. Rather than using the novel as a springboard for a psychologically rich tale of isolation and dependence (think Svengali and Trilby by way of  a Harlequin romance version of Poe), we get a catalog of craftsmanship courtesy of the Universal production design department; all immensity of Opera House and shadowy, would-be sinister cellars and sewer passages, but without the requisite directorial vision nor developed characterizations to make these imposing settings come alive.

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in 1920's cinema, cinema, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, horror films, Lon Chaney, movie reviews, Movies, Reviews, silent films, silent movies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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