Scary Movies: Phantom of the Opera

This was our family movie last Saturday. It was scary enough my son had to leave the room at one point! This was the version done by Hammer in 1962, and according to Wikipedia had an unusually large budget for a Hammer film, including renting out Wimbledon Theatre in London for on-location filming. The production values reflect the extra money, as it’s beautifully done, and there are a lot of really haunting images throughout.

There are plenty of other versions of this movie, but somehow this is the one that looks and feels right to me.

Lord Ambrose, the writer of a new production at the London Opera House, hires singer Christine Charles for the show after the show’s opening performance is cut short by an accidental (?) on-stage death and the previous star of the show refuses to perform. This is Christine’s big break, but she soon has to fend off Lord Ambrose’s constant sexual advances, even as she’s menaced by a sinister, unseen presence around her dressing room.

The show’s kindly and handsome producer, Harry Hunter, calms Christine down after a particularly frightening incident. In the course of investigating the incident, he comes across a rough version of the very show he’s producing, apparently written by somebody other than Lord Ambrose. Before he can look into this further, Christine is kidnapped and Harry must track her down. Eventually he locates her, hidden away in the catacombs beneath the opera house, where the dwarf servant of a masked man, the Phantom, holds her hostage. The Phantom turns out not to be evil, but a cultured man who has been terribly wronged. He wishes to coach Christine to use her voice properly, and she agrees. But is it all part of his plan for revenge?

An interesting note: The music the Phantom plays in this movie is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which seems like the natural choice to me, although apparently this is the only movie version that uses Bach.

Story/Plot/Characters–Great acting, all the characters are well-motivated, pacing is natural and moves well, though with a couple slow scenes. (3.5 points)
Special Effects–Not an effects heavy movie, but a fire scene and the various theatre scenes are well-done and effective. Bonus points for great period costuming and sets. On the other hand, the Phantom’s face, when we see it, is…less than horrific. (1 point)
Scariness–Some frightening moments. (.5 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness–Highly atmospheric London settings. (1.5 points)
Total=6.5 points

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