Beneath the sewers of the Paris Opera House, a masked figure dwells. He is Enrique (Lon Chaney), the Phantom, a hideously disfigured composer whose dream is to turn chorus singer Christine (Mary Philbin) into a diva. This adaptation of Gaston Leroux's novel gave 'Man of a Thousand Faces' Lon Chaney his most famous role, and is celebrated today as one of the great classics of American silent film.
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Directed by Rupert Julian, this lavish 1925 production launched the Hollywood Gothic style - which would become the trademark of Universal horror films.
Original prints of the film were fully tinted, with some sequences in Technicolor, and a rooftop scene using a special process that enabled the Phantom's cloak to show red against the blue night sky. This Photo play restoration carefully re-instates all these effects, and is accompanied by Carl Davis' celebrated score which draws heavily on Gounod's Faust, which is the opera being performed in the film.
* Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
* The original 1925 version, (black & white, 103 mins): with newly commissioned piano accompaniment by Ed Bussey
* Original 1925 trailer and 1929 sound re-issue trailer
* Reel 5 from lost 1929 sound re-issue (12 mins): the only surviving element, newly discovered in the Library of Congress archives.
* The 'man with a lantern' sequence: mysterious footage thought to have been shot for non-English speaking territories
* Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (2000, Kevin Brownlow, 86 mins, DVD only): Kevin Brownlow's definitive documentary on the legendary actor.
* Channel 4 Silents restoration souvenir programme (PDF)
* Fully illustrated booklet featuring new essays, review and film credits
Watching it, however, I can't help comparing it with the still definitive 'Milestone' Phantom disc set, as this BFI set succeeds and fails in equal proportions. I bought this mainly for the apparently only surviving reel (part 5) of the 'lost' 1929 sound release, in which the principle actors (minus Lon Chaney, as he was now working for MGM) were bought back four years later to fill out the feature so that a part talkie could be released.The section of the film this concerns is following the fall of the chandelier with Mary Philbin, looking slightly older, (it's 1929!) back in her dressing room.This alone was worth it for me. So the programme goes--
Disc 1. The Photoplay blu-ray version of the 1929 re release (silent) version-- fine, though the grain seemed now a little more apparent in HD, and the original 1925 release, as good as can be expected, considering the worn out 16mm origin. Also sound and silent trailers and Part 5 of the sound re release, plus the 'Man with the lantern' sequence, without any explanation.
Disc 2. The same things in standard DVD.
Disc 3. Documentary; Lon Chaney: A thousand faces.
What's missing for me is what's only in the 'Milestone' boxset---The excellent Scott MacQueen commentary on the Photoplay 1929 silent re release, and the wonderfully atmospheric organ score by Jon Mirsalis in the 1925 version. This BFI set had an adequate piano accompaniment in my opinion.
What a bonus if they could find the complete 1929 sound release print!
All in all? If you've got the Milestone edition, you've got this and more, (including trailers). If you want a tantalising glimpse of the 1929 sound release, however, you'll have to cough up for this one.
An excellent addition in this set is a booklet explaining it all.
So why not five stars?.
Firstly I have deducted a star because there is an even better restoration of this film which could have been put on the DVD (By Photoplay Productions with a score by Carl Davis).
I am deducting another star because this is the 1929 re-issue with about twenty minutes of footage missing. The reason for this is that the re-issue version is the only one existing with superior picture quality. However on the American Milestone editon of this film both versions appear in the same set, so you are able to compare them. (You can choose between poor picture quality or scenes cut from the film).
This is still a worthwhile DVD to add to your collection, at least until some else releases a better region 2 edition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
You have to hand it to Masters of Cinema/BFI. When they do transfers, they really do them well. A great value set; dual format, 3 discs, two versions of the film, extra scenes and... Read morePublished 12 days ago by S. Murray
It is, without doubt, a masterpiece and Lon Chaney is superb. The Blu-ray version is only a slight improvement over the Standard Play version, but is the best quality you can buy. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Chris King
Fantastic BLU-RAY and great quick service. Will buy again. AA++Published 4 months ago by jonathan starsmore
received but not yet used many thanks, a very old storey, I remember going to the Paris opera many years agoPublished 4 months ago by Sheila
Excellent addition to my collection. Delivery & service 1st class, i'm very pleased.Published 9 months ago by Christopher