The Phantom of the Opera (5 stars)

The Phantom of the Opera

Unmissable HD restoration of 1925 Rupert Julian version starring horror icon Lon Chaney

(PG) 77/114min

There have been several adaptations of novelist Gaston Leroux’s classic macabre horror romance, among them the original 1916 silent German version, the 1943 Hollywood version with Claude Rains, the racier 1962 Hammer offering, Brian DePalma’s 1974 glamrock reinvention, Phantom of the Paradise, Tony Richardson’s 1990 TV film with Charles Dance behind the mask, Dario Argento’s unsurprisingly gory 1998 take and the 2004 adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical starring a pre-300 Gerard Butler. None of them, however, touch the 1925 version directed by Rupert Julian and starring horror icon Lon Chaney.

Known as the ‘man of a thousand faces’, Chaney employed his make-up expertise to transform himself (through a painstaking and painful three-hour process) into a man without a face, a hideous grinning skull that has become one of horror cinema’s most iconic images. Aside from Chaney, this version of The Phantom also boasts blockbuster production values that include enormous sets, such as the cyclopean 100-foot tall Paris Opera House, scenes rallying hundreds of extras and a masked ball sequence that uses then pioneering 2-strip Technicolor technology.

As befits such a grand and classy version of Leroux’s beauty and the beast romance, this Phantom has been given a new HD restoration by Glasgow-based Park Circus, the film distribution operation dedicated to breathing new life into old (and not so old) classics through restoration and reissue in cinema and, in this case, DVD. This ultimate-style two-disc version comes complete with two versions of the films, the 1925 and 1929 cuts (running at 77 and 114 minutes), three alternate music scores, audio commentary and interviews and original publicity material. Unmissable.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Re-Release Trailer

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Clip: Opening Sequence

Phantom of the Opera

  • 1925
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Rupert Julian, Uncredited:, Lon Chaney, Edward Sedgwick, Ernst Laemmle
  • Cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Gibson Gowland

The best ever Phantom make-up by silent star Chaney haunts this early version of the classic story. Many creaky moments that are easily forgiven when the highlights come along. Tragic love, monster style.

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