Count Alucard (read his name backwards) finds his way from Budapest to the swamps of the Deep South; his four nemeses are a medical doctor, a university professor, a jilted fiancé and the woman he loves.
Lon Chaney Jr.,
Pit violinist Claudin hopelessly loves rising operatic soprano Christine Dubois (as do baritone Anatole and police inspector Raoul) and secretly aids her career. But Claudin loses both his touch and his job, murders a rascally music publisher in a fit of madness, and has his face etched with acid. Soon, mysterious crimes plague the Paris Opera House, blamed on a legendary "phantom" whom none can find in the mazes and catacombs. But both of Christine's lovers have plans to ferret him out. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The Universal Studios' stage 28 floor-foot print, built for the 1925 B&W Lon Chaney "Phantom of the Opera" feature film, is enormous. The European horseshoe Paris Opera Theatre's three tiered box audience seating area surrounds the floor audience ramped area. The master wide-shot from the top rear box seat area encompasses the stage proscenium, orchestra pit, and the chandelier. The top of the interior theatre ceiling master shot is completed with a matte painting. The audience area is one third of the stage's foot print. The North end of stage 28 encompasses the raised stage area. What really makes this stage unique is that in 1925, an elaborate 30'-0" diameter mechanical turntable sits in the center of the front stage area, allowing forty (40) feet from the back edge of the turntable to the rear stage back-wall. The basement of stage 28 houses the original turntable mechanical mechanism to turn the 30' diameter turntable. All of the mechanics for the turntable have remained intact, sitting in their original structural position. The turntable centers on a center cylindrical shaft, with triangular inverted bracing branches, welded to the center shaft, similar to an inverted umbrella brace. The entire weight of the turntable is thrust upon this center turning spindle. After the original film was completed, the turntable area of the stage floor was covered with three layers of 3/4" thick plywood 4'-0" x 10'-0" sheets, which allowed future film sets to be built upon the turntable stage area for feature filming. When a camera crane is used on the stage, allowances have to be considered with the turntable's floor position, related to the film set requirements. The original stage had a theatre pin rail system with hanging pipe arbors for electrical lights, existing on the stage right area. The raised stage area was utilized for feature film "process photography" because of the depth required for a film projector onto a rear screen, enough room for a camera and crew, with an acting/performance area in front of the screen. The projector camera has to be in direct center of the filming camera's lens point of view position, with a depth of field allowance. The 1943 Universal Studios Technicolor remake of "Phantom of the Opera" stripped the plywood floor covering in order to utilize the turntable for the film's stage production numbers. The turntable mechanism was tuned up and used. After this 1943 film was completed, the stage flooring was installed covering the turntable. The turntable has never been used since the 1943 feature film. The interior Opera House theatre has been filmed, and the production stage area of stage 28 has been host to many feature and television films. See more »
The use of a stunt-double for Claude Rains at the climactic cave-in is very obvious! The double has a bigger physique than Rains, and curly hair. See more »
Mademoiselle, may I speak to you for a minute?
Why, of course.
You weren't on the stage tonight for the third act curtain call.
Everyone seems to notice. It's really quite flattering.
Why weren't you there?
[Christine is puzzled]
Forgive me, but I have been a part of the Opera for so long. Everybody, everything connected with it, I feel it is so much a part of my life.
[Christine pauses, then smiles]
Yes, well, Monsieur Villeneuve is waiting for you.
You weren't ill, were you?...
[...] See more »
Gaston Leroux's penny-dreadful novel was hardly the stuff of great literature, but it did manage to tap into the public consciousness with its gas-light-Gothic tale of a beautiful singer menaced by a horrific yet seductive serial killer lurking in the forgotten basement labyrinths of the Paris Opera. Lon Chaney's silent classic kept the basic elements of the novel intact--and proved one of the great box office hits of its day, a fact that prompted Universal Studios to contemplate a remake throughout most of the 1930s.
Although several proposals were considered (including one intended to feature Deanna Durbin, who despised the idea and derailed the project with a flat refusal), it wasn't until 1943 that a remake reached the screen. And when it did, it was an eye-popping Technicolor extravaganza, all talking, all singing, and dancing. The Phantom had gone musical.
In many respects this version of PHANTOM anticipates the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, for whereas the Chaney version presented the Phantom as a truly sinister entity, this adaptation presents the character as one more sinned against than sinning--an idea that would color almost every later adaptation, and Webber's most particularly so. But it also shifts the focus of the story away from the title character, who is here really more of a supporting character than anything else. The focus is on Paris Opera star Christine Dae, played by Susanna Foster. In this version Christine is not only adored by the Phantom; she is also romantically pursued by two suitors who put aside their differences to protect her.
Directed by Universal workhorse Arthur Lubin, this version is truly eye-popping as only a 1940s Technicolor spectacular could be: the color is intensely brilliant, and Lubin makes the most of it by focusing most of his camera-time on the stage of the Paris Opera itself and splashing one operatic performance after another throughout the film. But in terms of actual story interest, the film is only so-so. Susanna Foster had a great singing voice, but she did not have a memorable screen presence, and while the supporting cast (which includes Nelson Eddy, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, and Jane Farrar) is solid enough they lack excitement. And the pace of the film often seems a bit slow, sometimes to the point of clunkiness.
The saving grace of the film--in addition to the aforementioned photography, which won an Oscar--is Claude Rains. A great artist, Rains did not make the mistake of copying Chaney, and although the script robs the Phantom of his most fearsome aspects, Rains fills the role with subtle menace that is wonderful to behold, completely transcending the film's slow pace, the lackluster script, and "sanitized for your protection" tone so typical of Universal Studios in the 1940s. Unless you're a die-hard Phantom fan you're likely to be unimpressed.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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