PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Of all the filmed versions of The Phantom of the Opera to date, this is the most variant telling. For no clear reason, the film changes the names of all the principal characters. It also adds a long preamble to tell a Phantom origin story in this case, showing him to be a composer whose wife is driven to suicide and how his face is burned when he tries to obtain revenge on those responsible. The Phantoms wife (a character that does not exist in any other version) is also a double for the mini-series equivalent of Christine Daae, thus bolstering the reasons for The Phantoms fixation on her. The character of Christines paramour Raoul de Chagny here becomes Michael Yorks conductor. There is also the new character of Jeremy Kemps opera owner who tries to have his ways with all the divas. (Somewhat amusingly, the mini-series names the villain Baron Hunyadi, seemingly unaware that Hunyadi is actually the name of the Hungarian royal family). The mini-series also rearranges the events of the story somewhat the venture into the catacombs to rescue Christine/Maria happens in the middle, not at the climax; Carlotta/Brigida doesnt exit or be killed early on (and her fate is never specified); while the climax of the show is the falling of the chandelier and possible killing of The Phantom and Brigida rather than the venture down into the Phantoms lair. For some reason, the story has also been relocated from Paris to Budapest. (Perhaps the reason for this might simply have been that Budapest was a cheaper location to shoot).
One of the great pluses of this version is the casting of Jane Seymour. Jane Seymour is one of the most elegant and classiest ladies in the film industry. Here she has a regal beauty that shines through even when she is reduced to grime and tatters. Maximilian Schell is probably too bland an actor to be a truly effective Phantom. The Phantoms papier-mache mask looks spooky and his burned face suitably hideous, while he is appropriately kept to the shadows for the most part; on the other hand, the flesh-toned mask that The Phantom wears for much of the show looks rather absurd.
Director Robert Markowitz does a reasonable job of generating atmosphere during all the skulking around. The beautiful Budapest locations add much in the way of period atmosphere. There is also a wonderful classical score. On the minus side, Robert Markowitz and the script misconstrue the drama. Christine/Maria gives herself to the Phantoms tutelage far too early in the game. This, their trust, her firing, her becoming Michael Yorks girlfriend and Carlottas being harassed are told in montage rather than drama. Being such essential character turning points, these should have been given far more time than they get.
Other versions of The Phantom of the Opera are: The Phantom of the Opera (1925), the finest version of all starring Lon Chaney; Phantom of the Opera (1943) starring Claude Rains; The Phantom of the Opera (1962), the Hammer version starring Herbert Lom; The Phantom of the Opera (1989), a slasher film starring Robert Englund, which involved time travel and had The Phantom selling his soul to The Devil; The Phantom of the Opera (1990), a tv mini-series starring Charles Dance; The Phantom of the Opera (1998) from Italian director Dario Argento starring Julian Sands; and The Phantom of the Opera (2004) from the Lloyd Webber musical starring Gerard Butler. Other variations on the story are The Phantom of the Paradise (1974), a satirical version that sets the story to rock music; a pornographic version Phantom (1998); Angel of Music (2008) about a modern reporter conducting an investigation into the truth of the story; Phantom of the Theatre (2016), a Chinese version that conducts some radically different takes on the story; and modernisations like The Phantom of Hollywood (tv movie, 1974), The Phantom of the Ritz (1988), Phantom of the Mall: Erics Revenge (1989) and a Disney Channel childrens tv movie The Phantom of the Megaplex (2000), which had the Phantom haunting respectively a movie studio, a movie theatre, a mall and a cinema multiplex.
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