About the film EditThis film, the first adaptation of Gaston Leroux's novel from 1908, remains one of the definitive masterpieces of silent horror. Released by horror giant Universal in 1925, this film emphatically established a formula that Universal head Carl Laemmle would rework into the thirties and forties, which proposed the important idea that those who look beastly will inevitably act beastly. Shocking for its time, this timeless classic features one of the most memorable scare scenes of the silent era:
the sudden unmasking of Erik (Chaney) - the ghostly opera ghost of the title.
Persistent directorial problems plagued the production of this feature, with Chaney detesting the credited Rupert Julian. It was during the making of the movie that Chaney had Julian replaced with journeyman director Edward Sedgwick and then re-directed many scenes himself and had the film re-edited before release in America. In the movie, Leroux's story is given a dose of Gothic nightmare horror and many of the scenes focus on the creepy, cobwebby corridors of the opera - which makes this particular adaptation wholly different from some later versions, which decided to remove the original novel's horror element for a mainstream-pleasing romantic theme.
In essence a "beauty and the beast" fable, the film revolves around heavily disfigured composer Erik (Chaney) who haunts the tunnels and backstage of the Paris Opera. He soon falls in love with young Christine Daae (Mary Philbin) and forces her to sing his composition "Don Juan Triumphant" after he has captured her and taken her to his domain. He later informs the Opera owners - via letters - of the consequences they will face if Christine does not perform his masterpiece. The trouble, however, starts when Christine leaves Erik and starts seeing her true love Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry, who also appeared in Tod Browning's 1929 horror classic The Unknown) again. It is at this point that Erik's evil side takes control of him and he imprisons the helpless Christine in the horrible bridal suite in his cellar. Although she is eventually saved - after much torture and terror has taken place - Erik meets a macabre death.
Even though the tale has been adapted numerous times, the scares have never been bettered and that's mainly because of Chaney's frankly awesome playing of the part and his astounding make-up. Although the unmasking scene remains the movie's biggest shock the film's most memorable sequence is the Masked Ball, in which Chaney enters dressed as if Edgar Allan Poe's legendary Red Death. This is another chilling moment and the shock is heightened because this scene only is presented in the tints of early 2-strip technicolor.
There have been over ten other adaptations of the myth but none can match this original for atmospheric dread or stunning direction.Imadjafar 07:31, December 26, 2009 (UTC)