Silent Saturday: The Phantom of the Opera

1925 silent melodrama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: In the corridors below an opera house, a deformed guy becomes infatuated with a young opera star and flirts clumsily.

Here's some Shane trivia for you. The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables are two stories with various cinematic incarnations that I usually avoid because of high school. My high school's band had marching band shows centered around these two stories while I was there, and those people always rubbed me the wrong way. It had more to do with me than any of them. I didn't really care for anybody my age, and I was sort of like the phantom character, deformed and trying to hide in the basement of my high school and often creeping out members of the opposite sex.

This movie is all about the shadows and Lon Chaney's self-applied make-up. Chaney is a living and breathing special effect here, thankfully not listening to his mother all those times she told him to stop making faces or it would freeze like that. It's striking the first time you see him when Mary Philbin rips off his mask, and I can't imagine how striking it would have been if I'd not seen it before. Also striking is his appearance in a Skeletor mask with the red cape in the scenes with some sort of crazy ball. Other bits are tinted in that scene, but it's the cape that really stands out, almost becoming another character. Chaney's performance, as you'd expect in a silent melodrama, is all about physicality. He contorts the body and uses his hands in a way that makes the character's insanity convincing.

And those shadows! There are lots of nice shots in this, all those subterranean angles and a beautiful opera house, but it's the shadows I like the most. The "phantom" is only seen in shadows for the first fourth of the movie. Those shadows make up for the lack of actual thrills or horrors in this movie.

There was a ballerina in this that I thought was distracting, twirling for no reason at all in one scene. It made me wonder if ballerinas had difficulty not spinning in random situations. Like, when a ballerina is standing in line at a grocery store, is it hard to keep from spinning around a few times? I often have trouble not correcting people's grammar in situations outside of school, and I assume that's sort of my "twirling."

Ok, I've said enough. Stop looking at me.

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