The Phantom of the Opera (1998) Poster

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wonderfully bad
billy_tom_logan18 July 2002
Being a fan of horror films, I was naturally intrigued to see that Italian horror legend Dario Argento had made a version of Phantom of the Opera. I rented it without hesitation. Well, it certainly isn't his best work, to put it mildly. The film introduces several new and interesting elements to the Phantom story, which by now has been rehashed ad nauseum. Some of these elements include - the Phantom having been raised by rats, the Phantom is not (externally) deformed, and therefore, does not wear the mask that is almost mandatory for the part (despite the fact that it appears on the cover - though it does make a haunting appearance in one scene, if you can catch it in the background). Unfortunately, the potential of these new ideas is never fully explored, rather, they are reintroduced and reintroduced as if to say, "Hey, look what I thought of! Isn't that great?" It seems that Argento got so caught up in the atmosphere and style of the movie that he forgot there was actually a story going on. The commitment to atmosphere is obvious - the costumes _are_ positively marvelous, and the cinematography is also quality. Beyond that, the film more or less falls apart. The acting is, for lack of a better word, absolutely terrible. I was sighing with relief everytime one of the few actors who managed mediocrity came onscreen. Julian Sands as the Phantom is flat, not surprising for an actor who fell off the face of the earth ten years ago. Andrea di Stefano as his rival Raoul is neither good nor bad, but certainly inexperienced. Asia Argento as the singer is disappointing compared to some of her other performances - but as one reviewer noted, she always seems to be holding back when working for her father.

The biggest problem I had with it was the hideous line dubbing. At least I _hope_ some of those lines were dubbed. Another problem is just how quickly the movie takes things for granted. Almost before I had time to take my popcorn out of the microwave and sit down, the singer and the phantom were madly in love and communicating psychically. Yes, psychically, another new idea that is interesting of its own right but doesn't work because it is presented far too suddenly and with very little supporting detail.

Overall . . . it has its moments. Those moments could have made for a very refreshing look at the Phantom story, as well as a darn good movie. Unfortunately, it managed to do only some of the former, and none of the latter.
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Interesting take on a familiar story
Jodie Hansen24 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen probably the majority of Phantom films ever made and own a number. This one I left until just last night to watch because I suspected it might be a little on the odd side. During the entire movie, I just wanted Julian to wash and brush his hair! Really, Dario wanted to make his own version of a familiar story and he did just that. If you look at it as merely someone's new take on the old story, then it can be viewed in an objective fashion. To be honest, I quite enjoyed it and loved the end scene. I actually felt some sympathy with Julian's phantom - Christine was just an irritation and obviously had no idea of how to fake a singer's breathing. Both she and the Phantom look pretty OK naked though.... Can't complain about that because every one wants the Phantom and Christine to get together, and here finally they did. It was a little more graphic that I had expected and a little more violent (I had imagined a more romantic tryst). The ratcatcher I would personally have gutted much much earlier in the movie - talk about a pain in the butt! Raoul was a nothing and could pretty much be ignored. Overall, I enjoyed the DVD and will be happily keeping it in my Phantom collection for a long time to come.
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Prepare Thyself for Camp
Dario Argento probably wasn't trying to make a funny movie about The Phantom of the Opera. Probably wasn't, but the point is, he did. While the gore in the film is unnecessary, it is not as frequent as we may be led to believe. The film does start out fairly abruptly with a guy getting his upper half sawed off, and at this time you're wondering, "what the hell is wrong with this picture?" Other death scenes are fairly equally gruesome, but all are also expected, therefore lowering the "scary gore factor." Of course, then you see The Phantom. Now, of course, you're really confused by the blonde hair and lack of a mask. I wasn't complaining about his good looks, though. The acting on Julian Sands's part is sub-par but not horrible, while Asia Argento is somewhat better. The relationship between the two is not incredibly believable, a sort of instant-love instant-hate instant-sadness thing that just keeps the audience confused as to why Christine can't make up her damn mind. Andrea Di Stefano is likable as Raoul, but some of his scenes are just incongruous with his character.

The sexuality of the film is incredibly overdone. Argento seems to need to expose women's breasts as many times as possible, including a very large and very unattractive La Carlotta. The opium den/whorehouse scene pretty much makes the movie (along with the couple of really gory parts) rated-R because we are definitely talking full frontal nudity, both sexes, and if you aren't expecting it you are pretty much blown away.

However: despite its flaws in cinematography (annoying and constantly switching camera angles and a soap opera-like quality), below standard acting, strange and inconclusive love story, and numerous bits of unwarranted violence... there is something about this film that just makes me want to declare it a campy, a cult classic. It is absolutely hilarious to watch, though very disturbing at times. If you've got a twisted sense of humour and/or a love of the bizarre, then this version of PotO with a man sticking rats down his pants for pleasure is the kind of movie you will want to see! 5 stars out of 10 for just being fun, though about 3 stars out of 10 when watched "critically." But as I said above, "prepare thyself for camp" and you'll probably love it.
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Not in the class with 1987's Opera, but better than it gets credit for
rbmoviereviewsdotcom9 April 2001
This is not a remake; it's a reconceptualization. Thus, it should be expected to be true to the original only where the writers, Gerard Brach and Dario Argento, see fit. Many people are up in arms that the phantom's face isn't disfigured, but that is not the problem. The problem is Dario replaces the disfigurement with a raised by rats story, yet we get a Richard Gere type of suave, supposedly poetic phantom instead of an uneducated Christopher Lambert in Greystoke. What makes this worse is that a totally literate phantom still has almost no chance to utter any decent dialogue.

Virtually the entire movie takes place within the opera house, but this is in no way limiting or constricting to the look of the film because this is Dario Argento we are talking about. Argento creates a bizarre underworld in the depths of the opera house that is original, but at the same time evokes memories of Jeunet & Caro's City Of The Lost Children and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Dario's pays great attention to detail when it comes to the look he wants, but seemingly could care less whether the set is plausible in the real world. This is Dario's world; accept it or watch boring, visually stunted, formulaic directors rehash bad scripts in a conventional manner.

The movie often succeeds in being darkly comedic, and the characters are only meant to be viewed in the sense of what the represent in the real world. This is why the outside world isn't normal the two times we see it. Julie Taymor's ancient Rome is the only one that had cars and video games, but that doesn't stop most people from thinking Titus is a good flick. Both are bold visionary movies that are not trying to be realistic. You can make a valid argument that certain unrealistic aspects don't add anything to the movie and/or simply dislike them, but things like electricity in the opera house were deliberate decisions that intentionally make it implausible in the sense of the real world.

The weakness of the movie, as usual, lies in the script. The most annoying aspect is that Sands has the special powers at the outset, but they mysteriously disappear when he needs them most as if they were provided by the Witchblade. The dialogue is definitely worse than the usual English as a second language stuff we get from Dario. The secondary characters are used well though, societal parodies. Some of the funniest work Dario has even done comes when he mocks the vulgarity of the opera society. The main characters don't provide chuckles or really elicit our love or contempt; it's hard not to be ambivalent toward them. The leading men seem to chase Asia because they become addicted to her at first site. Asia essentially professes to have no concept of love, so her feelings toward them are mostly based on their last action. Instinct vs. duality is a worthwhile concept, but unfortunately the characters only seem drawn to each other because they are supposed to be. It eventually clicks, but not until the final segment of the film.

The strength of Argento's movie, as always, is the look. Some aspects were a little below his own top standard, but this was not the typical Dario movie. The improvements in sets, staging, and costuming help balance off the areas that are obviously going to be weaker given the type of movie. He successfully branched out with the sex related scenes, particularly where the men are haunted by their desire for Asia. Scenes like these gave it the art house feel that made up for it lacking the haunted house feel Dario wasn't going for.

I don't see where the movie would have looked any better with an overbloated American budget. The only thing lacking visually is the innovation we used to get from Dario. There aren't any shots/scenes that really stick out in terms of being shockingly different or original. The tongue being bitten out was the gory highlight, but that would normally be no better than the 4th part you'd mention. The gore is mainly close-ups. Argento & Stivaletti do them better than anyone, but they've overused the grinding/biting/ripping stuff here.

The film doesn't have the edge or create the suspense Dario's used to. That's mostly purposeful because I don't believe Dario intended to make a horror film. Sands is the cartoon avenger who kills off grotesque characters and sinners that we should only feel contempt for, so why should we be worried whether they get decapitated? That's why rats were a great choice of animal to raise Sands. They aren't fluffy little kittens that everyone supposedly likes and can't stand to see harmed; they are vermin. The people who try to steal from the phantom, sin in his presence (note that he saves the little girl, who then returns and tells the tale only to get slapped by an adult), or outright harm `his family' are considered lower than vermin. Of course, no one films animals and insects better than Argento's crew. Sometimes he gets better `performances' out of them than from humans.

Sands & Asia do a very good job considering the extremely limited material. Sands is able to exude the right amount of confidence by being much lower key than usual. Unfortunately, there is not credible material to give him a chance to be scarred inwardly; he just seems too content. Asia is active enough with her body to get over the bad dialogue, but she sometimes looks ridiculous `singing' and the audio dub during these scenes is occasionally atrocious.

The movie certainly has many problems and doesn't hold a candle to Opera. That said, I'd still rather watch this than most films because it offers a unique visual experience that very few directors have the ability and the balls to provide. 6/10
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Worth seeing, if only for the dwarf's demise!
BA_Harrison22 March 2006
Dario Argento's adaptation of Gaston Leroux's classic tale is a below-par offering from the Italian master of horror - but even Argento's worst films still manage to be thoroughly entertaining, thanks to his energetic direction, unconventional storytelling, lavish production values and graphic gore.

Dario's daughter, Asia, is Christine, an understudy at the Paris Opera. Christine is lusted after by suitor Raoul – but Raoul has competition in the form of crazy killer, Erik, The Phantom of the Opera. Erik, abandoned at birth and raised by rats in the underground caverns beneath the opera house, uses telepathy to woo Christine and lure her to his lair. Then he bonks her.

Crazy Erik then sabotages the opera house, killing members of the audience and injuring prima-donna Carlotta, which results in Christine becoming star of the show. On Christine's first night, the opera house's ratcatcher (who secretly spied on Erik and Christine getting it on) reveals that Christine is 'the Phantom's whore'. The Phantom rescues Christina from an angry mob, who pursue them underground…

Although Dario's film is far from a masterpiece, it is hugely enjoyable thanks to the inventive gore (courtesy of Sergio Stivaletti), wonderfully preposterous characters (the ratcatcher is a scream, as he and his dwarf sidekick take delight in slaughtering rodents) and a good deal of gratuitous nudity.

So, in a nutshell, this isn't classic Argento... but it is fun!
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Guilty Pleasure
Galina22 April 2006
It is not the best movie ever made but it is watchable, mainly due to Morricone's Music and the opera selections. Asia Argento plays the main heroine, young talented opera singer Christine. I don't think she was bad and her face is unbelievably beautiful - she reminds Olivia Hussey of "Romeo and Juliet" (1968) and Uma Thurman if Uma ever decides to dye her hair dark. Production values, costumes, special effects, decorations, and the singing voices are very good. I noticed that I laughed a lot during the film - perhaps Argento made a dark comedy of the familiar story?

I did not like Julien Sands as a non-masked Phantom. He looks a lot like the creatures that raised him.

The film has an orgy scene that is so funny it could've came directly from "Caligula"

Overall - I had a lot of fun, and and can call it one of my guilty pleasures.
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About 10 times better the second time around
Warlock-511 December 1999
Yet again, a Dario Argento film that is absolutely horrible the first time, but somehow fantastic the second time you watch it. This phantom is pretty much different from the 1989 effort,starring Robert Englund, that also aimed for gory shocks and mayhem....and failed miserably. Argento's version is much better, never taking itself too seriously and telling a romantic tale that you actually care about. Julian Sands is good as the Phantom, when he learns that his lover Christine loves someone else, he listens to them kiss and he starts to sob, his acting is so good that it almost breaks your heart. Asia Argento is also a nice actress, I didn't care for her much in Trauma (and I've yet to see The Stendhal Syndrome) but her acting here has improved, she is a talented and beautiful actress. Now back to the movie itself, it's the best adaptation I've seen of the story yet, it is violent, but not too much. There's also a great sense of humour. "You will not play in Romeo and Juliet. If you defy me, I will hurt you. Do you understand me you fat cow?"

"How dare you-a speak-a to-a me-a like-a that!"(Italian accent)

The movie is really a lot of fun and I think I have a crush on Kitty Keri, but it's too bad she has her tongue ripped out.
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A misunderstood film
matheusmarchetti19 October 2005
Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera is, unfortunately a misunderstood film. It's much different from your usual Argento work and almost every film based on the classic Gaston Leroux novel. Sure, there ARE some issues with the film, but it's much better than people think it is. For instance, I did have a problem with the fact that this Phantom wasn't disfigured at all, and the fact that the Phantom IS DISFIGURED in the novel is one of the things that made such an enduring tale. However, it's not without a purporse. When you realize Argento's true meanings, you see that it can actually work in the film. His 'Phantom' and his 'Christine' are entirely different characters. The Phantom is indeed deformed, but on the inside, and the film is able to show that. Also, I loved how Christine is somewhat the Phantom's 'partner in crime' in this version. She's not the same naive character as she is usually portrayed. Another point that most people can't understand is that the film is itself more of a parody of the crazy world of the theater than anything else. We have everything from the overweight tempered 'prima donna', to the peadophile directors, everything. The film is often not serious, and while some might say 'unnintentionally funny', it is not. It's intentional. That being said, the use of CGI in the film was really unnecessary and looked really bad, one of the issue I have with the film as I've said earlier. The acting is often wooden and most characters say stuff that nobody would EVER say in 19th century Paris, but I suspect it's the result of bad dubbing. Anyways, the photography is really to die for. Ronnie Taylor proves once again he is a master at what he does, and sometimes it actually reminds of Argento's all time masterpiece, and my personal favorite horror film - Suspiria. As a matter of fact, lots of aspects of the film remind me of Suspiria: the dance school, the ballerinas in peril, the fairy-tale ish feel, etc. The Phantom's first appearance in the beginning of the film is also haunting, with the voice of Christine echoing through the lonely, empty corridors of the cavernous theater, and the Phantom standing in the dark, up in the boxes, just listening to her, like a shadow. And when he appears, seating at the end of the hallway, staring at the ground, it's also quite creepy. Another highlight is the musical score by Ennio Morricone, which is also one of his most underrated works. It's so beautiful and never fails to bring me to tears, but that is to be expected from him. Overall, it is a very good film. Yes, it IS flawed, but it's much better than what people say it is. Remember, watch it with an open mind and don't take it too seriously, because it wasn't the director's intention (not in a bad way, that is).
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Phantom of the O-P-E-R-A!!!!! CAN'T YOU READ???
ravenlord66627 August 2006
I do not rank myself among those who like Opera. Why??? Because I find the emotions and atmosphere in it far too exaggerated and melodramatic to be enjoyed.I 'm not saying I'm exclusively a freak for realism,but I don't like anything where women behave like spoiled little girls and where men seem like emotionally unstable women! I'd rather be shot than have to go to the theater, mind you... To the point: when I first got my hands on Phantom of the Opera by Dario Argento,I knew what to expect: an O-P-E-R-A made into a horror/Giallo movie! I knew there would be a lot of melodrama and silly-looking/sounding emotions... But I gave it a try anyway.

Was I disappointed??? NO. Was it Argento's best effort??? NO.Still, It IS an Opera-based movie,as I've already said,so those criticizing it for the exaggerated emotional atmosphere/behaver - think BEFORE you comment. Secondly,it's true it does not respect much of the book or that ridiculous musical inspired by Gaston Leroux's work - so what!!!! Argento wanted to turn a usual Opera story into a horror and changed a lot of elements - SO WHAT! By doing so,he enabled me to watch something that had much of an Opera yet enough of a horror,and I thank him for it! Next question: is it realistic and do all the details make sense??? NO. You see, Giallos themselves are not always realistic,and if that's what you're looking for,look elsewhere! In short: this movie is a Giallo with all the typical weaknesses and strengths, plus (to a great extent) Opera-like melodrama and silliness.If you like neither of the two, don't bother/stop bashing things you can't understand! For me,it's a GOOD movie for what it is, yet no more.But who can show me a more intense version of an Opera than this movie is????...
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