THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)
Article #110 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-4-2001
Posting date: 11-17-2001
An opera house is terrorized by a deformed man known as the Phantom, who tries to force the owners to put a specific singer in lead roles in their productions.
This is probably the most famous of Lon Chaney’s films. He was both a consummate actor and an inspired makeup artist, and this movie was certainly a triumph for him in the latter capacity; the make up for Eric is as famous as that of Jack Pierce’s for the Frankenstein Monster. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s one of his best performances, largely because the Phantom as a character doesn’t really have a great deal of dimension; it’s not that I think Chaney was weak in any way in the role, it’s just that compared to his roles in WEST OF ZANZIBAR or THE UNKNOWN, for example, there’s simply not a whole lot to it. In fact, the whole movie is a bit of a disappointment to me; it’s too long for my taste, and there’s too much time spent with the side characters and not enough with the Phantom himself. And though its horror aspects are quite obvious, it plays more like a melodrama than a horror movie. Still, it has some wonderful moments; one of my favorites is…SPOILER COMING…
…towards the end when the Phantom is cornered, and he reaches into his coat, and everyone stops in their tracks, terrified of what he’s going to do, and then. . . well, if you’ve seen it, you know what happens; if not, I’m not going to spoil the surprise, other than to say it is indeed a bravura acting moment from Chaney.