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on 22 August 2003
Gaston Leroux's penny-dreadful novel was hardly the stuff of great literature, but it did manage to tap into the public consciousness with its gas-light-gothic tale of a beautiful singer menaced by a horrific yet seductive serial killer lurking in the forgotten basement labyrinths of the Paris Opera. Lon Chaney's silent classic kept the basic elements of the novel intact--and proved one of the great box office hits of its day, a fact that prompted Universal Studios to contemplate a remake throughout most of the 1930s. Although several proposals were considered (including one intended to feature Deanna Durbin, who despised the idea and derailed the project with a flat refusal), it wasn't until 1943 that a remake reached the screen. And when it did, it was an eye-popping Technicolor extravaganza, all talking, all singing, and dancing. The Phantom had gone Hollywood musical.
In many respects this version of PHANTOM anticipates the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, for whereas the Chaney version presented the Phantom as a truly sinister entity, this adaptation presents the character as one more sinned against than sinning--an idea that would color almost every later adaptation, and Webber's most particularly so. But it also shifts the focus of the story away from the title character, who is here really more of a supporting character than anything else. The focus here is on Paris Opera star Christine Dae, here played by Susanna Foster. In this version Christine is not only adored by the Phantom; she is also romantically pursued by two suitors who put aside their differences to protect her.
Directed by Universal workhorse Arthur Lubin, this version is truly eye-popping in the way that only a 1940s Technicolor spectacular could be: the color is intensely brilliant, and Lubin makes the most of it by focusing most of his camera-time on the stage of the Paris Opera itself and splashing one operatic performance after another throughout the film. But in terms of actual story interest, the film is only so-so. Susanna Foster had a great singing voice, but she did not have an equally memorable screen presence, and while the supporting cast (which includes Nelson Eddy, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, and Jane Farrar) is solid enough they lack excitement. And the pace of the film often seems a bit slow, sometimes to the point of clunkiness.
The saving grace of the film--in addition to the aforementioned photography, which won an Oscar--is Claude Rains. A great artist, Rains did not make the mistake of copying Chaney, and although the script robs the Phantom of his most fearsome aspects, Rains fills the role with subtle menace that is wonderful to behold, completely transcending the film's slow pace, the lackluster script, and "sanitized for your protection" tone so typical of Universal Studios in the 1940s.
Like most "Universal Horror" DVD packages, this one is superior. The centerpiece of the bonus material is a very nice documentary, "The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked," which details the origins of the novel and the numerous film adaptations of it--and which is actually quite a bit more interesting than the 1943 film itself. There is also a nice, if somewhat perfunctory, audio commentary track by historian Scott McQueen, trailers, stills, and the like. But when everything is said and done, it's the film that counts. And unless you're a diehard Phantom fan you're likely to be unimpressed.
--GFT (Amazon Reviewer)--
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on 24 October 2003
Are you phantom fans ready for a night at the opera?Yes!
From all the versions I saw this is my doubt,gentlmen and ladies.It is beacause starting form the very begining with film's wonderful opera house set and stage.The music and opera sequences are wonderful and memorial in every way.Claude Rains is the best phantom with his elegant voice and charismatic performance through the film.There a few moments that the phantom really frightening.All in all,this technicolor horror,romance,thriller and fantasy movie is worth watching.
And there is also a wonderful end,a thrilling one.much more then lon chaney's 1925 version's end.
Phantom fans-what are you waiting for?
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on 9 February 2016
I have always held a great regard for Claude Rains as an actor (character actor/leading actor - what you will) but his part in this film does not quite gel for me. Once masked, we are dependent for identification upon the voice and Rains had a distinctive voice; but his delivery has the stamp of contrivance, as if he is not quite sure how to put it across. In places it is downright corny.

There is some excellent “bonus” material on this disc that I would recommend all to view before the feature film itself: in that way you’ll not puzzle quite so much as to the vocal renderings of Tchaikovsky’s F minor Symphony, No. 4.

Good value when due allowance is made for the “soft” picture quality typical of Technicolor.

An historically interesting rendition of the “Phantom”.
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on 24 October 2003
Are you ready for a night at the opera,phantom fans?
For me,this is the best phantom movie version ever.Starting from it's begining,with it's beautiful set and stage.the music and opera sequences are wonderfull and full of memorial moments.Rains is the best phantom,with his elegant voice and charismatic performances.He really has frightening moments.
All in all,this is the best phantom version with horror,thirilling,romance and fantasy which perfect in every one.
The end is such an exciting and winderful one,not like the end of the 1925 lon chaney version.
Phantom fans-what are you waiting for?
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on 13 October 2012
Of the three Phantoms (prior to the musical remake), the Claude Rains version remains my favorite. A good combination of horror, comedy, and music, plus the lush Technicolor cinematography, bring it to the forefront, as far as I am concerned. Claude Rains is a violinist who is driven mad when he thinks his concerto has been stolen by a music publisher. Of course, getting a tray of photochemicals searing into his face probably did nothing to calm his nerves. Before this, the violinist had been a gentle man who was secretly using his salary at the Paris Opera House to pay for the lessons of a young singer (played by Susanna Foster).

NOT-EXACTLY-A-SPOILER ALERT: I menton this because it was a theme cut from the film, so doesn't it doesn't hurt the viewing. The commentary reveals that the violinist was secretly the young singer's father, but she didn't know this. There was at least one scene filmed between an opera singer (Nelson Eddy) and her aunt in which it is revealed, but it - and the subplot - was cut from the film, partly because the powers-that-be at Universal feared the relationship between the Phantom and the young singer would look a bit incestuous. Now, with that removed, it looks like he is an old man trying to hit on her, LOL. It's better to just watch it with the father-protecting-his-daugher theme in mind. It works much nicer and brings a sensitivity to the performance of Claude Rains as the violinist. END OF NOT-EXACTLY-A-SPOILER ALERT.

The high-definition transfer is several steps up from the DVD release. No, it is nowhere even close to today's standards, naturally, but it still looks very good, and, boy, do I miss Technicolor! Lush colors abound, far superior to the DVD.

Audio is quite sufficent, retaining its mono nature in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Again, much better than the DVD.

There may not be a lot of extras but what is there is entertaining and VERY informative. Most of these have been carried over from the DVD:

"The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked" (SD, 51 minutes) explores the history of the Phantom in movies from Lon Chaney through Herbert Lom. Film historian Scott MacQueen hosts this detailed documentary and there are short interviews with Susanna Foster, Carla Lamaelle, and Universal star Turhan Bey. Excellent and well-done.

"Production Photographs" (SD) is a series of 67 images.

"Audio Commentary" by McQueen provides a lot of informative facts about the stars and the production. The commentary is available as subtitles only while viewing the movie with the movie's regular audio.

Other extras include a 7-minute short about the Universal lot and a trailer. Regretably, two minor (but nice) things from the DVD are missing from the Blu: production notes and bios of the cast and filmmakers.

Highly recommended.
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on 11 September 2013
It changes the story a lot - Erique Claudin (the Phantom) is not disfigured from birth, he is burned by acid. There are two Raoul characters. There is no masquerarde ball. Several of the characters have their names changed.

For me, this version is OK. Susanna Foster (Christine) has a superb voice, but her acting's not that good. Claude Rains is OK as Erique. The music is beautiful, but the script is (in parts, especially when Erique takes Christine down to his lair) AWFUL. The two Raoul characters are, in themselves, OK at best, but when they're together, all they do is get jammed in doorways or say the same thing at the same time. This is OK for a bit, but it gets old fast.

3 stars, and that's generous.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 October 2011
Phantom of the Opera is directed by Arthur Lubin and features a collective of writers adapting from Gaston Leroux's novel. It stars Nelson Eddy, Claude Rains, Edgar Barrier, Susanna Foster, Leo Carrillo and Jane Farrar. Music is by Edward Ward and cinematography by W. Howard Greene.

The Leroux source material has been adapted a number of times. This version sees Universal update their own 1925 silent version that starred Lon Chaney, and give it a Technicolor make over whilst practically making it a musical picture. Even making it a light comedy in parts! It is undeniably a gorgeous picture, both visually and aurally, for the sets and operatic tunes alone this could never be called a dull movie. But we want horror, it's an horrific tale of murder, disfigurement, disloyalty and unbridled passions, we don't want to be watching a Phantom of the Opera movie where at any moment you expect the cast to start singing "ding dong the witch is dead". Cast are mostly fine as regards the tone of the piece, though Rains barely gets his teeth into the role of the Phantom and comes off more like Zorro or the Lone Ranger. While Lubin and his crew give the whole production a professional polish. But horror? No, never, and that's a shame given it's from the torch bearers for classic horror of the 30s and 40s. 5/10
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on 2 November 2006
rather a letdown considering this was made by the leading studio in "horror" films, this version concentrates too much on the music rather the title character.

claude rains easily outshines everyone in the entire cast as the disfigured masetro; why he wasn't given top-star billing for this film i do not know. his being cast as the phantom is inspirational but he is also my second favourite actor to play the part after lon chaney.

it is the romance between nelson eddy and suzanne foster that takes centre stage which verges on becoming tiresome.

i have to admit that the costume worn by claude rains, is the best one ever used as far as i'm concerned. his lurking around corners and casting shadows is quite creepy indeed.

the makeup, alas, is one of the worst that i've ever seen; certainly no match for the work of art designed and applied by lon chaney in the 1925 version. this 40s attempt doesn't even cover all of claude rains's face. a pity. the unmasking scene lacks any real dramatic impact as a result.

the scene in which rains changes from a peaceful but stressed person to a raving lunatic when his music is stolen, is acted with the kind of conviction that i have rarely witnessed in all the films i've seen(and i seen a lot of them over the years).

for those who like musicals, this film will be right up your street. otherwise, have patience and enjoy another splendid performance from claude rains.
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HALL OF FAMEon 2 August 2008
The 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera has always had, for me, an endearing quality of good-hearted wholesomeness, even with face-destroying acid, deranged obsession, and love so strong it corrupts. On the other hand, the obvious wholesomeness -- Nelson Eddy's game attempt at light romantic comedy and Susanna Foster's peaches-and-cream singing and acting -- are quickly cloying. However, for the sheer comforting pleasure of this great old story of a murderous, misunderstood madman at the Paris Opera, I prefer this version, as weak as it sometimes is, to the grand guignol of Lon Chaney's silent movie or the florid pomposity of Lloyd-Webber's turgid musical. Why? Because it is satisfying fun without uber-drama or much meaning. Does anyone not know the story? Probably not, so we'll pass that by.

What other pleasures does this movie hold besides a great romantic and melodramatic story and the most threatening chandelier in Paris? There's that lush Technicolor look that shows off with rich color the sets, the costumes and the complexions of the actors. Claude Raines as Enrique Claudin gives a touchingly mad performance as a humble violinist who wrote a great concerto and who fell hopelessly in love with Christine Dubois (Susanna Foster), a beautiful young soprano for whom he beggared himself secretly paying for her vocal lessons. Eddy, as Anatole Garron, the star baritone at the Opera, and Edgar Barrier as Raoul D'Aubert, a senior officer with the Surete, are amusing as the Mutt and Jeff competitors for Susanna Foster's favors. The ornate and gilded stage set of the interior of the Opera gives movie "quality" a new meaning. And the dark, dank, damp catacombs beneath the Opera, reached by slimy stone steps and lit only by guttering candles in hand-held lanterns, are just part of the shivers in store for those foolish enough to follow the Phantom to his lair. There is also the deep, black lake of despair and the music, drifting down from another world. Or, as Claudin describes it to Christine, "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." Raines was such a fine actor he could make Claudin a tragically sympathetic character. I'm sure Christine would have been persuaded if she'd only stopped screaming.

The DVD transfer is first-rate, lush and full of color. There are several extras including a commentary track.
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on 19 August 2013
Didn't like this very much,but then again I bought it for my daughter in law who has never heard of or seen the original version of this story.I can remember seeing the film on TV many years ago,and didn't like it much then,But this is the truer version of the story as it is very similar to the original book.
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