The Phantom of the Opera (1925) + Thierry Escaich

The Phantom of the Opera
Director: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle, Edward Sedgwick
Writer: Walter Anthony, Elliott J. Clawson, Bernard McConville, Frank M. McCormack, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock, Richard Wallace, Jasper Spearing
Based on: Gaston Leroux‘s novel
Cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Gibson Gowland, John St. Polis, Snitz Edwards, Mary Fabian, Virginia Pearson
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by Thierry Escaich
Seen on: 12.2.2020

The Opera in Paris haunted – but not by some specter, but by the Phantom (Lon Chaney) that dwells in the catacombs beneath the opera house. When the Phantom, himself a musical genius, realizes the talent of Christine (Mary Philbin), he makes sure that her career as a singer takes off. But ultimately, he wants Christine for himself – and that means getting her away from her fiancé Raoul (Norman Kerry).

The Phantom of the Opera is an absolute classic and with good reason, even if a lot seems cheesy from today’s perspective. Escaich’s accompaniment on the organ was the perfect choice for the film.

The film poster showing a drawing of the phantom diving after a boat.

I only knew the Gerard Butler – Andrew Llyod Webber version of this story before seeing this, so there was a certain element of surprise for me that the Phantom is not a tragic, misunderstood genius in this one. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate an actually monstrous Phantom – especially since Chaney plays him with so much relish. He definitely had fun here.

The film is less good with Christine who has got to be one of the most useless people I have ever seen on film. Sexism really screws things up sometimes. But at least she gets a very pretty Raoul, even if she’s not capable to look for a set of keys in a room with barely any furniture.

The phantom (Lon Chaney) shows Christine (Mary Phibin) something.

The film has some really nice visuals, and the labyrinthine opera house was pretty cool. Other things were a little laughable for today’s audience – like the room Raoul gets trapped with Ledoux (Arthur Edmund Carewe) [a character who was apparently whitewashed from the book – to then be performed by an actor in brownface, which didn’t age well at all] and then the Phantom turns up the heat.

All this cheesy, overdramatic flair the film has was perfectly complemented by Escaich’s improvisations (I think) on the organ, probably the most dramatic instrument. He really rounded off the film in the greatest way, making this the best Film and Music evening at the Konzerthaus in a while.

Christine (Mary Philbin) hugs Raoul (Norman Kerry).

Summarizing: Loved it.

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