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The Phantom of the Opera - on the Screen
Gaston Leroux (1868-1927) was a French author of detective fiction, his most famous novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra was first published in 1911.
In the novel Erik the Phantom wears a mask to hide his face which was physically deformed since birth, he is also mentally disturbed. He becomes obsessed with young opera singer Christine and falls in love with her. At one point she takes off his mask and is horrified at what she sees, she wonders if his face is another a mask.
At the end of the story Erik saves her friend Raoul from death, Christine allows him to kiss her, Erik confesses that he has never kissed anyone before and has never been kissed, not even by his mother. Christine kisses him back. Overcome with emotion Erik allows her to leave with Raoul telling her to "marry the boy whenever you wish". A few weeks later Christine reads a newspaper report that the Phantom was found dead, probably of a broken heart.
This hub looks at the various films and TV movies based on the novel.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Directed by Rupert Julian. 93mins (107mins)
Erik The Phantom - Lon Chaney
Also starring Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe and Gibson Gowland.
Lon Chaney (1883-1930) was known as the Man of a Thousand Faces. He was the most famous horror star of silent movies. He would apply his own make-up, contorting his face with wires or strapping his legs painfully behind him to play an amputee.
Chaney's most iconic role was as Erik the Phantom. In one of the most famous scenes in horror cinema Christine tears off his mask to reveal a ghastly skull-like face beneath. Some audience members were reported to have fainted at the sight.
Chaney glued back his ears and pulled his nostrils up with hidden wires to get the necessary effect, he also used egg membrane to give his eyes a cloudy look.
Universal reissued The Phantom of the Opera in 1930 with synchronised sound and music, it was a success and jumpstarted Universal's long running series of horror classics beginning with Dracula, Lon Chaney was considered for the role but died of lung cancer before production started.
All prints of the 1925 Phantom of the Opera with sound have since been lost.
IMDB rating 7.7
Phantom of the Opera (1943) Directed by Arthur Lubin. 92mins.
The Phantom (Erique Claudin) - Claude Rains
Also starring Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, J. Edward Bromberg, Hume Cronyn and Fritz Leiber as Franz Liszt.
The Phantom is at it again, this time in full Technicolor. "Invisible Man" Claude Rains takes on another iconic role and is still hiding his face, this time behind a mask.
Lon Chaney Jr was considered for the Phantom.
The stars of the film are Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster which meant horror and the Phantom take a back seat to the music.
Nominated for 4 Oscars winning 2 - Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
The film cost $1,750,000 to produce which was a lot more than Universal Studios were usually spending on their horror movies. Phantom was a big success and the studio quickly put the Boris Karloff film The Climax into production, re-using the sets from the Phantom of the Opera.
The Phantom: They've poisoned your mind against me, Christine. That's why you're afraid. You'll love it here when you get used to the dark. And you'll love the dark, too. It's friendly and peaceful. It brings rest and relief from pain. It's right under the Opera. The music comes down and the darkness distills it, cleanses it of the suffering that made it. Then it's all beauty. And life here is like a resurrection.
IMDB rating 6.6
The Phantom of the Opera (1962) Directed by Terence Fisher. 90mins.
The Phantom (Prof. Petrie) - Herbert Lom
Also starring Heather Sears, Edward de Souza, Thorley Walters, Michael Gough and Patrick Troughton.
Made by the Hammer Film Studios.
Cary Grant was approached to play the Phantom but declined the part... no, I can't see him in the role either.
The late Herbert Lom was fine as the Phantom, his face is scarred when nitric acid is thrown at his face.
The film had a lot less gore and horror than usual for Hammer Studios and was not a success, despite costing twice as much as their usual horror movies.
The Phantom: I am going to teach you to sing, Christine. I am going to give you a new voice! A voice so wonderful that theatres all over the world will be filled with your admirers. You will be the greatest star the opera has ever known. Greater than the greatest! And when you sing, Christine, you will be singing only... for me.
IMDB rating 6.3
The Phantom of the Opera (1983) Directed by Robert Markowitz. 96mins.
The Phantom (Sandor Korvin) - Maximilian Schell
Also starring Jane Seymour, Michael York, Jeremy Kemp, Diana Quick and Philip Stone.
Filmed in Budapest, Hungary.
Another deviation from the book, this time the Phantom, here called Sandor, becomes deranged after his wife commits suicide and he is badly burnt in a fire with a jar of acid spilling onto his face. And the setting has been moved from the Paris Opera House to the Budapest Opera House.
IMDB rating 5.6
The Phantom of the Opera (1989) Directed by Dwight H. Little. 93mins.
The Phantom (Erik Destler) - Robert Englund
Also starring Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy, Stephanie Lawrence and Terence Harvey.
Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare at the Opera.
Robert Englund, the popular dream demon from the Nightmare on Elm Street film series takes a turn as Erik the Phantom in this gory remake which includes decapitations, impalements, stabbings, skinnings, crushed heads and a ripped out heart.
The movie was subtitled "The Motion Picture" because Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical version of the Phantom was in full swing on Broadway and London's West End by 1989.
Plans for a sequel were scrapped after grossing just $4m at the US box office.
Christine: Are you going to kill me now, too?
Erik: Everyone dies... I only choose the time and place for a few.
Christine: When do you choose for me?
Erik: [playing the organ] This is either a wedding march or a funeral mass. You decide which.
IMDB rating 5.0
The Phantom of the Opera (1990) Directed by Tony Richardson. 168mins.
Erik the Phantom - Charles Dance
Also starring Burt Lancaster, Adam Storke, Teri Polo, Ian Richardson and Jean-Pierre Cassel.
A two part mini-series based on Gaston Leroux's novel.
The lavish $10m production won two Emmy Awards and Burt Lancaster was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Mini-Series.
As this was a classy production it was quite tame compared to previous movies and the Phantom's scarred face is never seen.
Christine: Let me see your face.
Erik: You have asked the only thing in my power that I cannot grant. Please don't ask it again.
IMDB rating 7.3
The Phantom of the Opera (1998) Directed by Dario Argento. 99mins (106mins)
The Phantom - Julian Sands
Also starring Asia Argento, Andrea Di Stefano, Nadia Rinaldi and Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni.
Directed by Italian horror legend Dario Argento, his daughter Asia plays the Phantom's obsession, Christine.
Ennio Morricone composed the score.
The gory film was widely panned by critics. Unlike the previous TV version where the Phantom never takes off his mask, in this film the Phantom doesn't wear a mask at all, there are no scars to hide.
The only Phantom of the Opera movie to show the Phantom and Christine naked, well it has been more than 50 years since Lon Chaney and Claude Rains, time's have changed.
IMDB rating 4.1
The Phantom of the Opera (2004) Directed by Joel Schumacher. 143mins.
The Phantom - Gerard Butler
Also starring Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver and Ciaran Hinds.
Big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hugely successful musical which first opened in London's West End in 1986 and on Broadway in 1988.
Michael Crawford played the Phantom in the original musical, Sarah Brightman played Christine.
Hugh Jackman was considered for the lead role but he was filming Van Helsing at the time.
Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum had never seen the musical before being cast.
The giant chandelier cost a million dollars to create and weighed 2 tons.
The Phantom had only 14 lines of dialogue which were not sung.
The reviews were mixed - "Its kitschy romanticism bored me on Broadway and it bores me here." David Ansen, Newsweek.
Nominated for 3 Oscars - Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Song.
Phantom of the Opera cost $70m to produce and has grossed $154.6m worldwide, by contrast the stage musical grossed a record-breaking $845m in it's Broadway run alone. The longest running Broadway show of all time, with over 10,000 performances!
IMDB rating 7.2