The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
A disfigured former composer haunts the Paris Opera House and several people have seen the cloaked, shadowy figure. From his vantage point high above the opera house stage he sees and falls in love with young understudy Christine Daae, who is standing in for the company’s principal, Carlotta. The masked phantom lures Christine into the subterranean world below Paris where he lives and professes his love. When she removes his mask, she is horrified by his grotesque appearance and begs to be released. He agrees but tells her to stay away from her lover, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. Terrified she turns to Raoul for protection and the outraged phantom, whom the police have determined is an insane criminal and an escapee from Devil’s Island, kidnaps Christine off the stage during a performance of Faust. Assisted by Ledoux of the secret police, Raoul proceeds to enter the phantom’s underground lair to rescue her.
It has always been a question whether “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925) is a great film, or only a great spectacle. It is the idea of the Phantom, really, that fascinates us: the idea of a cruelly mistreated man going mad in self-imposed exile in the very cellars, dungeons and torture chambers where he was, apparently, disfigured in the first place. His obsession with Christine reflects his desire to win back some joy from a world that has mistreated him. Leroux and his adapters have placed this sad creature in a bizarre subterranean space that has inspired generations of set designers. There are five levels of cellars beneath the opera, one descending beneath another in an expressionist series of staircases, ramps, trapdoors, and a Styxian river that the Phantom crosses in a gondola. The Phantom has furnished his lair with grotesque fittings: He sleeps in a coffin and provides a bed for Christine in the shape of a whale boat. Remote controls give him warnings when anyone approaches and allow him to roast or drown his enemies. – Roger Ebert
Directors: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney
Starring: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry