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The Phantom of the Opera


Sorry, Mr. Webber, but we mean the old-school version.

Rod Lott October 26th, 2011

I don’t care how old you are or how many times you’ve seen it: When Christine unmasks the Phantom 38 minutes into 1925’s "The Phantom of the Opera,” you get goose bumps. The look on Lon Chaney’s face — heavy makeup and all — is one that imprints on your brain for life. And all without a spoken word.

phantomoftheopera

Chaney’s name is forever associated with “Phantom,” and for good reason: It’s one of the great performances in silent films. When you’re unable to speak to your audience, your language is physical, and while so many other actors emoted with overly raised hands — something still seen on the stage today — Chaney relied on his highly expressive features. Not for nothing was he called the “Man of a Thousand Faces.”

His performance is as timeless as Gaston Leroux’s novel, which tells the story of a disfigured, masked composer who lives in the tunnels underneath the Paris Opera House and harbors quite the crush on the second-string singer Christine, to the point he’s willing to murder others to make her the star. This Carl Laemmle production — not the first, but arguably the most famous — makes its Blu-ray debut from Image Entertainment.

While the transfer isn’t perfect, it sure beats every other version I’ve seen on innumerable public-domain sets. Plus, you have the option of watching it in three slightly different versions, varying in color tints and musical scores.

Gabriel Thibaudeau offers your more traditional, piano-based score, while Frederick Hodges tickles the ivories for a too-quaint score that brings in ragtime influences. Best and brightest is the version scored by the Alloy Orchestra, whose experimental accompaniment really comes alive; their music of the night holds the most appeal to modern audiences. It’s clearly the way the go. —Rod Lott

Read how Alloy Orchestra approaches providing soundtracks to the silents.

 
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