The Phantom of the Opera is a name that will be familiar with most, if only for the recent film adaptation of the 1980s musical by Joel Schumacher. Still, the story is a classic, one that predates the musical by several film adaptations of the original novel of the early 90s, the earliest being this one starring Lon Chaney and directed by Rupert Julian. Aside from its adaptation of the novel, the film doesn’t have that much going for it, but anyone with a love of the story in any form will find plenty here to at the very least be nostalgic about.
The plot is very faithful to the novel, and thus will seem familiar to anyone who has seen either the stage version or the recent film adaptation of the musical. It’s a bit slow at times, but the moments where it isn’t make up for any plodding. Even though it’s decades before it would become a stage musical, the score still feels almost reminiscent of what would come so long after, at least in the version I saw. Lon Chaney would become iconic for his role as the Phantom, and he pulls it off with impressive melodrama and signature dedication. The rest of the actors, by contrast, seem to be lacking in comparison with him, which was a bit of a shame from an entertainment standpoint, but still speaks much about Chaney and his ability to command the screen.
The print I saw was rather poor quality, so I can’t really attest to the visual aesthetic as much as I can what cinematography I was able to make out, which was decent enough, including a rare Technicolor sequence in the middle of the film. I was somewhat stymied by any attempts to really point out any strong characteristics or selling points the film had; it was decently done, but there really wasn’t any wow factor aside from the scenery and, to a smaller extent, the makeup used to transform Chaney into the ghoulish Phantom, which didn’t seem enough of a sell for a recommendation. Regardless, this isn’t bad, and like I’ve mentioned, will manage to hold you interest if you’re in any way familiar with the tale already.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10