The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

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*. Hammer was grave-robbing Universal throughout this period, so doing the Phantom was inevitable.
*. Originally this was a project scripted for Cary Grant as the romantic lead (it’s sometimes said that Grant was set to play the Phantom, but this is wrong). Grant’s agent had other ideas.
*. Some people really like Herbert Lom in this role. I think he doesn’t have much to do. The same goes for the stars of a lot of the Hammer/Universal adaptations. Christopher Lee barely had to show up to play Dracula for Hammer. But I digress.
*. Lord Ambrose D’Arcy, meet Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Talk about a role model. That’s influence!

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*. I really like Michael Gough as the villainous and lecherous D’Arcy, but he doesn’t exactly get his comeuppance at the end, does he? Surely he’ll be back to lay claim to his opera.
*. From Paris to London, home of cockney wenches and leering rat-catchers. Christine’s last name is now “Charles.” Everyone should be able to pronounce that.
*. The flashback is left too late (until after we’ve already figured out everything that happened for ourselves), and goes on too long. I do like the use of the Dutch tilt for flashbacks though. So much better than framing everything in a mist.
*. The usual explanation for the addition of Igor (I’m using a conventional name since he doesn’t have one in the movie, where he is only credited as “The Dwarf,” despite not being one), is that he’s there to do the killing in order to make the Phantom seem more sympathetic. I don’t buy this. Surely the Phantom is ordering the killings done and so is responsible. And the Phantom isn’t that sympathetic anyway, especially given how he slaps poor Christine around.
*. There is some parallel between Joan of Arc’s story and the Phantom’s. Both feature women who hear voices. Both have heroes who get torched. But I wonder if the St. Joan opera was meant to be taken seriously. It seems almost Pythonesque.
*. I like this film a bit more than the 1943 version, but that isn’t saying much. The Phantom’s grotto is a definite upgrade. The mask was just some rag they improvised with, but still works pretty well. The falling chandelier is kept for the end, where it disappoints. Worse, even at 84 minutes the whole thing drags. The male and female leads are blanks, the Phantom doesn’t have enough to do, and the conflict with Lord D’Arcy isn’t resolved. Overall, this is quite a disappointment.

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