Top critical review
"Great film condition not so good"
on 18 October 2012
My review is specific to this release.
Briefly Lon Chaney was a star character actor in silent films. Although his repertoire was vast it is a small portion of it he is remembered best for now-the grotesques, monsters etc.
Phantom is one of his best remembered & loved films. For many it's still the definitive version. Chaney's performance is a very strong one. The look of horror on his face as the Phantom has his mask removed still packs a punch. He evokes sympathy and pathos in what would otherwise be just a monster, his background related by a police detective which is far from sympathetic is almost at odds with Chaney's portrayal! Like in all the best silent films, you can almost hear him talking in his best moments e.g.during the scene where he reveals his real name & someting of his history. It's a shame that for the early part of the film he wear a mask obscuring facial movements, which is much more of a problem in silent films than talkies.
There are other strong performances e.g. Mary Philbin as Christine but naturally there are a few performances that are a little OTT and accompanied heavy handed attempts to be humorous from supporting characters. It's obvously much harder to act without dialogue and mugging was not uncommon.
The sets are good and in fact the Opera House stes survives to this day and has seen use in other films , notably the 1943 Claude Rains version of Phantom (*1).
The music chosen for this release is a good accompaniment
The print itself and this is what I mean by a review specfic to this release, is in terrible condition. It full of scratches. You can still see the various tints e.g. blue for night time scenes and the colours still come through in that the wonderful technicolour moment where the Phantom enters a Masqued Ball as Death.
This film is for those interested in silent cinema, versions of this classic story or anyone with an interest in Lon Chaney. If you want a copy to keep in your collection and treasure, it's probably better to save for a more expensive re-mastered edition. If however you wuld just like to see the film, then this budget priced edition will do just fine.
*1 Lon Chaney's son Lon Chaney Jr wanted the role in the remake & later claimed he had been promised it. Although he did test for a remake of another of his father's
famous films The Hunchback of Notre Dame (he lost the role to Charles Laughton) it is not known if he tested for this.