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DVD Shopping Bag: The Phantom of the Opera 1925 Blu-ray
Ditch your 99 Cent Version
By Robert T. Trate
November 01, 2011
With each time you see Mary Philbin as Christine Daae reach for the Phantom’s mask there is an incredible moment of anticipation. That moment reveals not only the Phantom’s face, but the moment when horror movies were born. Sure, there were a few others before here and there; Chaney’s Hunchback in 1923 and Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein in 1910 to name only two. Lon Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera, however, is a beast unto itself. The film reached from the screen into the audience and struck a true chord of fear. Yet, with as frightening as the Phantom is, this is also a love story. Here is a true tale of beauty and the beast where the monster cannot shed his horror. He simply is the creature of the night that everyone fears. What truly makes Chaney’s Phantom special is that, without words, we feel for this dark character. It is all in the eyes that we see the Phantom truly loves this woman. It is a love that is completely unrequited.
Image Entertainment has the cure for your Halloween hangover today as they have released their Blu-ray edition of The Phantom of the Opera. Many of you already have a copy of this film. It probably sits in a loose DVD sleeve or came from a drug store where you got it for 99 cents. So, why in the name of the Paris Opera House should you buy it for $40 (on sale on Amazon right now for $23)? The answer is easy: the transfer.
Many of those drug store Phantom of the Operas are poor renditions of this classic film. It was in the public domain for years and released over and over again. I know of the 99 cent Phantoms at dug stores because that is where I bought mine. I got another free with an Andrew Lloyd Webber CD. Yes, the Phantom has been out there a long time.
Image Entertainment did its job and delivered an incredible Blu-ray transfer. The colors (yes colors) pop here as each scene is delivered in a different hue. The scene which introduces the new Opera House owners looks as if it was filmed yesterday. It is clear and sharp. Down below in the catacombs, shadows become hidden walls and passages for the Phantom to slink in and out of. It truly is a marvel what Image Entertainment did with its transfer.
There are three different versions of the film presented as well. One can watch either the original 1925 version from the 6 millimeter source with Frederick Hodges’ piano score, or the 1929 reissue at 20 frames per second with a different score. It can also be viewed with just a commentary. Finally, there is another available version of the ‘29 film with Gaylord Carter’s famous organ score. This version is presented at 24 frames per second. Not bad for a film that is approaching one hundred years old.
My biggest complaint is how un-user friendly the menu is. To just simply insert the Blu-ray reveals very little on what you are getting. The special features are almost hidden, yet the back of the box reveals all. A movie such as this shouldn’t be difficult to navigate. Yet, each version on the Blu-ray seems to be its own entity. This is incredibly frustrating if you wish to hop from one cut to the next to see the difference in music or frames per second.
I’ve been a fan of The Phantom of the Opera character since junior high. I’ve seen the Broadway Musical, every incarnation of it on screen (including the Robert Englund version) and even read the book. Here on Blu-ray it was really a wonder to see this beloved version as if for the first time; like sitting in a Vaudeville house watching it circa 1925. Not bad way to get over your Halloween hangover.
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Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.