We continue this retrospective on the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS (our retrospective: HERE) with the film the Phantom of The Opera, released in 1925. Following the huge public success and critical of the friendly Notre-Dame de Paris in 1923, Carl Laemmle decided, logically, to continue its momentum and product after a few months the first film adaptation of the novel by Gaston Leroux. It is very pleasant to watch the two movies one after the other and to see how Universal manages to put in place rules and codes does not adversely affect (or little, let us remember all the happy-end of Our-Lady of Paris) to the quality of the work and the creative talent of their director. In fact, if the two works share some common points, that are in their ambition, their production or their construction, the Phantom of The Opera manages to draw its pin from the game in many aspects and proves to be a major film far exceeding any expectations I could have in me throwing in this retrospective.
We take the same and we start again. This is the impression which dominates in the early plans of the Phantom of the Opera version 1925. The presence of Lon Chaney in the credits, the composition is bombastic and majestic, the first few minutes that place from the outset, the film as a big production, with scenery galore, all this reminds of course the first work of the series. However, and against all expectation, the movie takes on very quickly a path unexpected and Rupert Julian impose his visual universe, giving to its realisation, an aspect atypical very pleasant. This was not yet won, given the various issues encountered during the production. The genesis of the work is in fact rather complex, since judged not to be satisfactory, the version of Rupert Julian has been wound up and turned into a film leaning more toward the romance than the thriller horror. And then, facing criticism, Universal took a step back and accepted again the original by removing a few lost scenes from. It is therefore quite surprising that the director manages, despite everything, we offer a visual moving away very quickly from the first film of the series to lean towards expressionism in its pure form. The game on the shadows, the mechanical aspect and the lights participants to the psychos of the characters, typical of German expressionism, are quite suitable to the film of psychological horror that is the Phantom of The Opera, and the staging of Rupert Julian is an absolute success. By a photo copy, it makes each map a table threatening and distorted by filters and lights without that it becomes indigestible. The sublime scenery of the opera house rebuilt are filmed like a maze populated by monsters and mysteries, so much so that the Shining of Stanley Kubrick sometimes reverts to memory as a possible legacy of the film. If a filmmaker masters his subject in terms of staging, force is to admit that the cut is, however, much less modern than that of Wallace Worsley in Notre-Dame de Paris, and the recording of his film in a precise movement to the aesthetic is very stylized and recognizable may divide the critics. Some appreciate a matter of finding a visual identity very marked while others will regret without doubt the sobriety that characterized the photography of the first film of the series Universal Monsters. Difficult, however, to make the fine mouth when, from the first shot, the director manages to immerse you in a world of their own, by a play of light, all in all simple but absolute efficiency.
The phantom of the opera, played by Lon Chaney, does not seem to be an element adding to the chilling atmosphere of the film during the first thirty minutes. Very often referred to, it will not appear, however, that a few moments during the first third of the film, and always in the form of shadow. A bias is interesting, but it would have perhaps been good to push it even further by not showing the ghost, thus integrating the viewer to the doubts of the characters on the existence of the watch. Anyway, the pressure rises quickly and the first appearance of the ghost allows us to appreciate, once again, a Lon Chaney masterful. Bursting with charisma, the actor serves as an impressive composition, helped by a staging worthy of her talent. All the visual artifice, the make-up, the framing, the gesture of the ghost, are managed to perfection and allow him to flood the screen, particularly during two scenes hinge where her monstrosity is revealed. If Quasimodo was a man who was a victim of his deformities and that he appeared as a martyr, Lon Chaney , here embodies a character much less nuanced that the horror will be assumed, and this allows him to abandon the grotesque and the surjeu for a service which is more cold and more noticeable. It is unfortunate, however, that Mary Philbin, who gives him the replica, does not reach a second purity, and gentleness, which were a shine to Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda. The actress gives us a benefit quite good, but is pale figure next to Lon Chaney or even other supporting roles. Maybe there will be more at ease in the next film in this retrospective, the Man who laughs, where she also embodies one of the main characters.
”the film is a nugget of visual and omen yet beautiful things for the rest of the series”
The Phantom of the Opera seems to be much more representative of the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS than the previous film directed by Wallace Worlsey. In spite of some similarities, such as a monstrosity apparent, and the confrontation of the world of ” normal people “, or even a clear commitment to Universal to produce a film of enormous complexity that characterized Quasimodo disappears completely in favor of writing more manichean. The ghost, who plays the villain, wants out of jealousy to kill the gentiles and remove the heroin. An evil for a well, as Lon Chaney seems to be more comfortable in the role of psychopath. Rupert Julian can also give heart to joy, and the film is a nugget of visual using this duality nice/nasty to adorn the stage of symbolism or game of light and shadow, to fall. The Phantom of the Opera , therefore, the bar still a bit over the top, brims with scenes that cults often due to a direction of actors is flawless or plans gorgeous sublimated by the original band, and bodes yet beautiful things for the rest of the series. Tbc in the sequel to the folder !
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– our retrospective UNIVERSAL MONSTERS
• Original title : The Phantom of The Opera
• Production : Rupert Julian
• Screenplay : Elliott J. Clawson, Bernard McConville, Frank M. McCormack
• Main actors : Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry
• Country of origin : United States
• Output : 1925
• Duration : 1h33
• Distributor : Universal Pictures
• Synopsis : Erik, be half crazy to be rejected by society, living in basements, abandoned the opera Garnier in Paris. In love with one of the singers, it intrigues to obtain the first role, before him to claim his love in return. But the latter, discovering the profound ugliness of the one they call the Phantom of the Opera, seeks by all means to escape his grip, with the help of her suitor.
CLICK ON THE POSTERS TO VIEW THE CRITICAL
1923 – Our lady of Paris (★★★★☆)
“an excellent way for Universal to establish itself as a studio major”
1925 – The phantom of the opera (★★★★☆)
“a nugget of visual and omen yet beautiful things for the rest of the series”
1928 – The man who laughs (★★★☆☆)
“not a bad movie, but it could have been much more”
1931 – Dracula (★★★★★)
“Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen”
1931 – Frankenstein (★★★★★)
“an instant classic made to perfection”
1932 – The mummy (★★★★☆)
“a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience”
1933 – The invisible man (★★★★☆)
“the director tackles the themes of power and greed without concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally”
1935 – The bride of Frankenstein (★★★★★)
“The work of James Whale stands out as the jewel ultimate of a series absolutely fascinating”
1941 – The Wolf man (★★★☆☆)
“THE LOUP-GAROU is still a film to see, registering visually and thematically, the continuity of the Universal Monsters, and who will enthrall you with the time an hour”
1954 – The creature from the black lagoon (★★★★★)
“Jack Arnolds carries a film of great intelligence and an audacity all making honors the early masterpieces of the series, while creating his own myth”