Phantom of the Opera (1943)

Article #619 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-24-2002
Posting date: 4-19-2003

An understudy of the Paris Opera must choose between her lovers (a baritone with a pencil-thin moustache or a policeman with a pencil-thin moustache) or a career as an opera diva. She is also being stalked by a phantom.

If the above description spends more time on the soap opera aspects of the story rather than the horror content, there’s a reason for that. In fact, to further labor the point, I’m going to eschew my usual habit of capitalizing movie titles in their entirety to make a point; whereas the silent version of the story could be titled “PHANTOM of the Opera”, this version could be titled “Phantom of the OPERA”. The movie seems to want to avoid letting on it’s a horror movie; most of the running time is taken up with the above silly soap opera plot, tepid comic relief and opera (admittedly, the opera is pretty good for what it is, but you still have to be a fan of it); most of the time spent on the phantom is in his backstory rather than his haunting of the opera. Which is not to say that Claude Rains doesn’t do well; he’s easily the most compelling character in the movie, particularly during the backstory sequence. However, you’ll notice he only received third-billing; Nelson Eddy (as the baritone) receives top billing, and he sings quite a bit. The movie gives me the feeling that Universal was more than a little embarrassed by its horror roots and tried to become a class act by emphasizing opera; after all, what could be classier? Give me the Lon Chaney version, please.


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