Streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi!


Directed by Rupert Julian (uncredited Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle, Edward Sedgwick).
Written by Walter Anthony, Tom Reid (titles, uncredited), Elliott J. Clawson, Raymond L. Shrock, Bernard McConville, Frank M. McCormack, Jasper Spearing (treatment, uncredited), Richard Wallace (additional comedy material), from the novel by Gaston Leroux.
Starring Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Gibson Gowland, John St. Polis, Snitz Edwards, Mary Fabian, Virginia Pearson.

I remember seeing THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA ages ago. In the between time, I’d seen Robert Englund play the character, delighted at DePalma’s rock opera THE PHANTOM OF PARADISE, and even seen the live musical. It’s a testament to Leroux’s story that it has survived so many renditions and reimaginings through the years. But returning to the silent film that started it all, it’s obvious why the Phantom has gone down as one of cinema’s most notorious villains.

Lon Chaney is stellar as the Phantom. Even before his twisted visage is shown, his dramatic and bold movements instill a level of creep and power that few actors possessed at the time, much less possess now. Gotta talk a bit about the famous unmasking scene; I know there was a time that the scene would cause women to faint in theaters. Sure, we are jaded now, but I still get a little shaken at this scene as the Phantom is professing his love, playing the organ, and caught off guard when Christine (played by Mary Philbin) pulls his mask off for all to see. It’s a horrifying moment, not just because Chaney had stretched and pulled his face into an inhuman shape, but also because it is a moment of ultimate betrayal, as the woman he trusted reveals the misguided Phantom’s true, unprotected face. What makes the Phantom such a good villain is the fact that he is a tragic character; one who is guilty of not understanding society due to his disfigurement. He’s driven mad by his solitude and just wants someone to love. There’s something sad about that and even though Chaney is truly scary in every scene he’s in, there’s a melancholy sense of pity ever present as well.

Sure the story is famous for the unmasking and the fallen chandelier, but there’s so much more. The Phantom has booby trapped the catacombs he lives in to be set off by playing his organ. He submerges himself under the water to attack those come to rescue Christine. The gondola ride is beautifully shot. The boat shaped golden bed in the Phantom’s chamber is exquisite, yet not overly stated. The vividly Technicolor masquerade ball where the Phantom shows up as the Red Death is both jarring in that all of a sudden there’s color, but enchanting, nevertheless. And the carriage race away from the lynch mob is about as tense as it gets. The film ends with the Phantom’s ultimate deception as he fakes out the lynch mob one last time by acting like he has a bomb in his hand when in reality it is empty. A fantastic final “Fuck you!” to the society who shunned him and the Phantom laughs his wicked head off as the mob tears him apart.

You can’t call yourself a true horror fan if you haven’t seen this classic version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

Check out the trailer here!!