Phantom of the Opera (SE) /B,B
Universal/1943/93/FS 1.33

      Phantom of the Opera, a vintage Universal horror offering, makes its way to DVD in rich color with little evidence of the 1943 birth date. This is the second film version of the Gaston Leroux story, adding sound and color to the original which starred Lon Chaney as the Phantom. 

Steal my music, will you! ŠUniversal

     The lush color of the opera house settings plays well against the twisted menace of the disfigured phantom. A violinist at the Paris Opera, Enrique Claudin has toiled in the orchestra pit for almost twenty-five years. Claudin falls in love with a young singer in the chorus, Christine Dubois, and secretly her finances her training. When Claudin begins to lose sensitivity of his hand, his playing suffers noticeably and, with regret, the violinist is given walking papers by the orchestra conductor. His world is falling apart. The opera teacher refuses to train Dubois without continued payment, Claudin's landlady warns him about falling behind in the rent and when, a last hope, his original sonata, is brushed aside by a publisher, Claudin loses control, kills the music publisher and is disfigured in the ensuing struggle. It's a short path to the opera house and his behind the scene mischief.
     This Phantom of the Opera stands more as a pathetic romance than a chilling horror essay. Claude Rains carries the delicacy and effete sensibilities of Claudin with him as he becomes the Phantom. It's difficult to believe at times that  the love struck violinist is wreaking terror through the halls of the Paris Opera. The operative theme here may be that love drives men beyond their imagined capabilities. 
     Nelson Eddy belts out the opera melodies as the erstwhile hero of Phantom, baritone Anatole Garron. Newcomer Susanna Foster plays opposite him as Dubois. Paging Jeanette McDonald; Foster fails to light up the screen like Eddy's co-star of numerous musicals. 
     The reign of Rains as the Phantom is quite abbreviated. In this Phantom version, the police do an expeditious job of luring ghost from the secret passages of the old opera building to the forefront of the stage. A clever staging suggested by the opera's leading man Garron leads the baritone and police inspector to the bowels of the opera house where the Phantom has imprisoned the soprano of his dreams. Some humor is injected into the screenplay as Garron and the police inspector compete for the affections of Dubois. Only the Phantom takes things into his own hands.
     The still vital color makes this Phantom of the Opera DVD a pleasure to watch. The film demands small audience commitment for the revealed pleasures. The transfer elements are in excellent condition, with minor dirt and a few scratches. Some digital cleaning appears to have been done int he video stage and a few scenes are less than perfectly sharp. You'll hardly notice it when enjoying this Phantom version. The colors are rich with no evidence of smearing. The sets look lovely in three strip Technicolor and color registration is dead on accurate. 
     Universal has released Phantom of the Opera in a special edition DVD as part of their Classic Monster Collection. Scott McQueen, film historian and preservation evangelist, hosts a documentary about the making of The Phantom of the Opera: The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked. The documentary is padded with clips from other Universal horror offering, but it reveals enough about the origins of the phantom to live up to its title. McQueen is humorous in his presentation and informative on a audio commentary accompanying the film.




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