Friday, June 11, 2010

Phantom Of The Opera, The (1962) - 3/5

The classic horror tale Phantom of the Opera has to be one of the most adapted stories in film history. There seems to be at least one Phantom film made each decade since movies began being made. The story became one of horrors most popular stories with Universal's silent adaption in 1925 starring Lon Chaney. Universal also made a successful color remake in 1943 staring Claude Raines. When the sixties rolled around one horror company ruled the cinemas. That's right, it's Hammer time and it was due time for them to give a the extremely popular horror pulp story a shot.

The plot of the film actually follows more of the Claude Raines version with Hammer also talking liberal changes to the story, which is of course fine by this fan! We open with a popular opera being rehearsed (overseen by corrupt play writer Michael Gough) only for the opera to be plagued my a mysterious "accidents" and deaths. It seems that a masked lunatic is causing all the ruckus (played by Herbert Lom). Thanks to a flashback sequence we see that Herbert Lom spent years of his life writing an opera and when trying to sell his story to a publisher (Gough), the publisher in turns prints the story taking all the credit for himself. Lom finds this out and breaks into the printing mill in order to destroy all the copies but accidentally sets himself on fire in the process. He then becomes known as "The Phantom", masking his burned face and living in the sewers below the opera, Lom takes his revenge on Gough by sabotaging his play. His revenge is going as planned until he falls for a young opera singer whom he is bound determined to train to give his play all its worth.

Hammer did a decent job with adaption especially by hiring seasoned Hammer director Terence Fischer (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula) to helm the project. He makes this adaption less pondering than other ones and also spices up the film with some atmospheric shots. Michael Gough and Herbert Lom are also good replacements for Hammer regulars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and their strong acting brings this familiar story up a couple of notches. The one aspect I couldn't help but be disappointed in the character of the Phantom. The character of the Phantom is more of pity and sympathy rather than horror. His character just really lacked the driving revenge I craved. Sure have the character sympathetic but give him a psychotic, dangerous edge! If some asshole stole my play and I became disfigured in the process, I would lose my mind and set out to take that fucker down! A simple mask isn't enough to make his character "horror". This horror lacking villain made me come out of this film a little disappointed despite the film having top notch production values and cast.

Overall a decent Hammer film but hardly top tear horror material from the company. As a sympathetic atmospheric drama it's good but it really lakes that good horror aspect that great Hammer films supply. If the Phantom character was a little more fleshed out and had more of a psychotic edge to him this film would have been one of Hammer's best!

Written By Eric Reifschneider


  1. The spelling you're looking for is top TIER.

  2. My favorite version of the story. Excellent!