Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Night at the Opera

The penultimate disc in my Universal monsters box set is the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Arthur Lubin and starring Claude Rains as the Phantom.

The first colour film in the set and it's definitely technicolour, the whole thing looks like an image from the top of a tin of chocolates. I've also just watched the 1925 black and white silent version starring Lon Chaney which is moody and atmospheric. The 1943 film suffers in comparison on several counts, the colour palette makes everything look very pink and reassuring and not at all horrific. It's also a mistake to change the story so that Rains begins as a member of the orchestra and frustrated composer, we see his disfigurement when acid is thrown in his face so we have some idea of what's coming when he is unmasked. There was no warning or explanation of what was to come when Chaney's face was revealed, in fact it's so horrifying that the focus puller missed his moment and the image infamously swam out of focus.

There's also some unnecessary comedy moments from Nelson Eddy and Edgar Barry as the romantic rivals for Susanna Foster's attentions. The opera scenes themselves are far too much like a big Hollywood musical with some rather obvious miming to the soundtrack, and there is not enough of the Phantom in the creepy catacombs. Claude Rains is convincing as poor Erique but gets too little time as the Phantom.

Sadly the whole thing is rather dull and not at all scary, It's the runt of the litter in this particular box set and gets a mere 1 out 5 conveniently handy trays of acid. So it's on to the last of the set, the one I've never seen that I'm really looking forward to. It's time to take a deep breath and meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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