At the Opera of Paris, a mysterious phantom threatens a famous lyric singer, Carlotta and thus forces her to give up her role (Marguerite in Faust) for unknown Christine Daae. Christine meets this phantom (a masked man) in the catacombs, where he lives. What's his goal ? What's his secret ? Written by
Lon Chaney did a lot of work with his performance through his hands. The son of two deaf mutes, he learned to be very expressive with them, and as this is a silent performance, the hands are required to convey quite a lot. See more »
When Christine first interprets the role of "Marguerite" in "Faust", we see her in the costume used for the ending of Act 5 of "Faust" (the finale of the opera). However, when Raoul comes around to her dressing room, after the opera has finished, we find Christine in the braided wig and outfit worn during "The Jewel Song" which is in Act 3 of the opera. See more »
The current copy of the Universal production of "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925) is only a shadow of what was once a great film.
Originally, the way the film was shot, it stayed quite close to the book. Many people have complaints about the film straying from the novel, but key sequences like the Graveyard at Perros and the alternate ending where Erik dies of Christine's kiss were shot, then scrapped, then reshot, and then re-scrapped. Eventually, they were just rewritten or disacknowledged altogether.
The original cut was shown in Los Angeles on January 7 and 26, 1925. This was the cut that used the most footage from what was shot starting on October-December 1924. Due to poor reviews, the January release was pulled, and Rupert Julian was told to reshoot most of the picture. Already having become a difficult director and egocentric over the fact that he was the star director ever since he replaced Erich Von Stroheim on THE MERRY-GO-ROUND (1924), he walked out on the studio.
Edward Sedgewick (later director of Keaton's THE CAMERAMAN), who was working for Universal at the time, was asked by Carl Laemmele to reshoot and redirect a bulk of the movie. Raymond L. Schrock, who along with Elliot Clawson, was the screenwriter for the film, re-wrote new scenes to add into the film by the request of Sedgewick. Most of these scenes were added subplots, with Chester Conklin and Vola Vale as comedic partners to the heroes and Ward Crane as the Russian, "Count Ruboff" dueling for Christine's affection. This cut premiered in San Fransico on April 26, 1925 and also failed miserably with reviews.
The final cut had to be made, so Maurice Pivar and Lois Weber re-wrote the final draft script, which was edited to the final nine reels, which debuted on September 6, 1925 at the Astor Theater in New York City, and October 17, 1925 in Hollywood. This cut only exists in 16mm Show-At-Home prints made by Universal for home movie use. These prints are not top quality, but watchable, and even the most complete existing version of this print today is incomplete from years of splicing. These 16mm prints sometimes make it to the underground video market and are best to watch for story, but not for quality.
If you think about all of the mishandling in between, you realize how much has been tampered with the film so far. To add insult to injury, most prints circulating today, including Kino's and the Kevin Brownlow restoration, are actually from a re-release in 1929. When sound came around, Universal immediately redubbed Phantom in sound and re-shot about 40% of the film (whatever Lon Chaney was not in, since he was unavailable). The only quality 35mm print today is a copy made in 1950 for Eastman House in Rochester, NY of the silent cut of the sound re-release to distribute to theaters that didn't have sound systems.
So as you can see, it is really almost impossible to truly critique THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925). It is a semi-lost film.
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