Phantom of the Opera
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Lon Chaney is Erik, the horribly disfigured Phantom who leads a menacing existence in the catacombs and dungeons beneath the Paris Opera House. When Erik falls in love with a beautiful prima donna, he kidnaps her and holds her hostage in his lair. This horror classic, presented in its 1929 re-edited reissue version, features a rare early 2-color Technicolor sequence.
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I absolutely love Kino and all the wonderful things they've done for my film collection over the years, so it pains me to say that this isn't a very compelling Blu Ray disc. The print isn't in very good shape, and when transferred to video, the center of the image seems to have been a bit "lifted" from the gate, so the edges are in sharp focus, but the center is a bit blurred.
This alone would have bothered me, but I also have the BFI Blu Ray of the same film (it's an import from Europe), and the image quality on that disc is absolutely stunning. That disc also features a surround-sound orchestral score from Carl Davis, which is much better than either stereo soundtrack on the Kino blu ray (as much as I enjoy the Alloy Orchestra, this score is just run-of-the-mill). In fact, the BFI disc is so good that when I compared the Kino to the BFI just out of curiosity, I ended up watching the whole BFI movie.
Having the film available on the Kino disc in two speeds (20fps and 24fps) sounds great, but the 20fps version suffers from the "stuttering" motion that others have complained about when referring to the earlier Milestone DVD. The motions of people do look more natural, but the stuttering is just too distracting. The BFI blu ray has a wee bit of the stuttering effect, but it's not objectionable.
Both the BFI and Kino versions have one reel of the 1929 sound release that was discovered recently in the Library of Congress. It's really interesting and is of the same quality on both presentations.
The Kino version has a great 53-minute extra that contains a lot of the 1929 audio track to listen to. When appropriate, it's synced to footage from the 1929 film, but for the most part it's just audio. Still worth listening to, though.
Again, I don't like criticizing Kino*, but this disc ain't the one to get. Buy the BFI import from amazon.co.uk if it's still available; you won't regret it. (NOTE: The BFI print is region-free, but it includes a PAL DVD version of the whole package as well, and also a PAL DVD of the "Lon Chaney: Man Of A Thousand Faces" documentary from TCM and Kevin Brownlow. If your bluray player can't handle PAL DVDs, you won't be able to view these two DVDs.)
* my package also contained "Diary of a Lost Girl" from Kino on Blu ray, and that disc is stunning!
But then Chaney covered his face in dispair and his expression dropped down into a look of sheer pain and sorrow. Lon Chaney had such control over every gesture and expression of not just his face but his whole body! It's not just WHAT he did with his hands but HOW he did it! How he moved from being rejected to a look of wicked glee as he schemed of what he would do next to his pursuers I found so fasinating!! But Mary Philbin's Christine performence so sadly went downhill! While Chaney is so convincing as the Phantom with a tortured soul, Mary as Christine kept clasping her hands repeatedly (how many times did she do that!?) and her attempts at acting frightened led to some pretty bad facial expressions! Her best moment was when she started reaching to pull off Chaney's plastic mask! She slowly moved her hands forward, then pulled her hands back before trying again while her eyes showed she was truly curious as to what his face looked like! She actually had good subtle performance moves there!
But the rest of her movie performance is an embarassment! At times her acting reminded me of "Lucy Ricardo" trying to break into "Ricky's" act in I LOVE LUCY if you know what I mean! She is the "fly in the ointment!" But I enjoyed everyone else! The Masque ball 2 strip techicolour scene I compared to Roger Corman's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH movie starring Vincent Price! Vincent Price's performence as THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES was clearly modeled after Chaney's PHANTOM! The music added a macabre feeling to the Phantom's entrance as the costumed Red Death complete with a skull face!
The final moment (Spoiler Alert!) showed the Phantom cornered in front of a river and he managed to frighten the angry mob by pretending to have a bomb consealed in his fist! But then he opened his hand to reveal there was nothing there! Chaney laughed as if to say," I fooled you again!" before the mob beat him up and threw him in the river! The Phantom was a tragic trickster and a frightening, sad, rejected man thanks to the performence skills of Lon Chaney!