At the time Hammer filmed The Phantom of the Opera, the subject had not yet been overkilled through musicals or countless other adaptations. Over the previous decades there had been a small number of other films made based on Gaston Leroux’ novel – most notably Lon Chaney’s famous silent movie from 1925 and Arthur Lubin’s 1943 production -, but time was ripe for a new interpretation and the folks at Hammer were hoping to do for the Phantom what they had previously done for Dracula and Frankenstein and to introduce a new generation to this classic monster.
The production was ambitious. At one stage Cary Grant was even being courted for the lead which could have opened up a whole new audience for Hammer movies. In the end, it was Herbert Lom who accepted the part and brought a lot of class to his role. His acting is very reminiscent of Christopher Lee’s in The Mummy. In both cases we have classic examples of actors overcoming the limitations of a facial mask and demonstrating an incredible acting range that lesser actors without the hindrance of the special makeup can’t even begin to reach. Lom’s mellifluous voice just adds to the subtle range of emotions he is able to display for this role.
Perhaps not unusual given the subject matter, but not very typical for a Hammer movie, The Phantom of the Opera is a very musically oriented production. An original opera based on the life of Joan of Arc was composed for this film by Edwin Astley, lengthy excerpts of which are shown throughout the movie. The cinematography is often stunning. The picture is saturated in full, rich colours and makes the movie not just a feast for the ears, but also for the eyes. Trouble is, however, that it just ain’t very horrific as those lengthy musical interludes, beautiful as they are, just end up distracting from what little horror there is in it. It seems that by aiming this film at a slightly different and more main stream audience, Hammer ran the risk of alienating its loyal fan base as this has little of its usual horror set pieces and also only a small number of Hammer’s regular team of players. Apart from Michael Gough - who as often the case with his roles relishes chewing as much scenery as he can as the truly despicable Lord Ambrose d’Arcy - and Michael Ripper – surprise, surprise in a cameo part – there are few familiar faces.
The film proved to be Edward De Souza’s first major screen role. His next was in Kiss of the Vampire before he became a successful actor in a range of different TV series. Here he convincingly, though not very memorably, plays the part of the bland hero who needs to save Heather Sears’ character out of the clutches of Michael Gough’s lecherous Lord and to ensure that Lom’s Phantom does not cause all too much damage.
Sears as the heroine is terribly miscast. She sure isn’t the type who could infatuate three men all at the same time. Certainly not with that bird’s nest of a hair cut. Sears’ singing voice was dubbed by opera singer Patricia Clark.
The most memorable scene involves future Dr Who Patrick Troughton as a disgusting rat catcher who freaks out some ladies of the night who were visiting the Opera (that atypically is not located in Paris)…. just to be killed by a dwarf (Ian Wilson) through a stab in the eye.
Also look out for Thorley Walters and Miles Malleson.
Overall, this is an interesting and beautiful movie that nevertheless ends up a bit of a failed experiment when it comes to delivering the goods as a horror production with splendid opera scenes aplenty that do, however, drown out most of the action.
After a successful 12-year managerial and customer service focused career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, I followed my passion and went freelance as a Private German Tutor.
For three years I was giving German lessons one-on-one or in small group settings and guiding German cruise tourists around the Emerald Isle during the main holiday season.
From October 2011 - September 2013 I was back working for a multinational corporation, Apple, while also maintaining the services I had set up in the previous years but now I am back again full time with my own range of services.
We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.