The Phantom of the Opera

Director: Rupert Julian
Year Released: 1925
Rating: 3.0

Early (silent) film (but not the first!) of Gaston Leroux's famous story about a spectre (Lon Chaney) haunting the Paris Opera House who demands a woman he's enamored with (Mary Philbin) play the lead (or else). Though most people are familiar with the singing version of the story which has been playing on Broadway for Lord Knows how long, this bit of silent cinema - aided visually by its 'datedness' - is probably creepier now than it was then. Certainly Chaney's lunatic, masked and unmasked, remains one of the iconic image of early cinema, and the sequence in color, in which he arrives wearing a skull mask, is both beautiful and unforgettable. It's an uneven film and oddly paced, but Chaney's performance as the complex, love-stricken, self-loathing man-monster conquered by torch-carrying masses (who is beaten and chucked into the Seine) makes it mandatory viewing for horror buffs.