Film: The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Phantom of the Opera had its second film adaptation in 1925note , starring Lon Chaney as the eponymous Erik. It is a well-known silent film, and is seen as one of the most faithful adaptations to the original book. It depicts the Phantom as tragic, but also murderous and criminally insane.It has since fallen in the public domain and may be watched here and here. And on Netflix, if you have it.This film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Gaston Leroux novel (except for the ending), so most of the tropes on the Literature page apply here. Tropes particular to the 1925 film are listed below.
Contains examples of:
- Brandishment Bluff: When Erik is cornered by the mob, he appears to hold something in the air and brandishes it to hold them back, even turning to make those behind him retreat, then he laughs and shows an empty hand, prompting the mob to move in for the kill.
- Captain Obvious: A weirdo in a mask and cape lures Christine to his underground lair. He plays her creepy organ music and shows her the coffin he sleeps in. After taking all this in Christine says "You—you are the Phantom!"
- Dramatic Unmask: Phantom's unmasking is probably the most dramatic one, and one of the best ever examples of this trope. According to the IMDb, "The sight was said to have caused some patrons at the premiere to faint."
- Robert Bloch wrote about having seen this movie as a child. He didn't follow the plot much, and didn't get why the Phantom was wearing a mask. Then came the dramatic unmasking scene, and he slept the next ten years with lights on.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: See Brandishment Bluff above.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: Like in the novel, the Phantom sabotages the opera chandelier to drop on the audience.
- The Film of the Book: This version revises the ending but is otherwise the most faithful adaptation of the novel. It includes Raoul's brother, who is usually Adapted Out. It also originally included the Persian—he is shown wearing a fez—but in post-production he was turned into a French police detective. Since it was a silent movie, all they had to do was change the title cards. Chaney's deformed head resembles the "death's head" the book describes, and is a deformity from birth as in the book, unlike most later adaptations in which it is an injury.
- Focus Group Ending: Chaney was a strong supporter of being faithful to the novel, including using the original ending where Erik is redeemed and dies. When test audiences reacted negatively to the original cut of the film, many scenes were reshot, and the ending was revised to the mob chase scene. Other book accurate scenes were also cut out.
- George Lucas Altered Version: perhaps the earliest well-known example of a movie getting an altered version. After being released silent in 1925, the film was given a sound re-release in 1930; about 60% of the footage was re-shot with sound, and the other 40% had sound dubbed over it. A third version of the movie called the Eastman House Print also exists, but nobody actually knows where it came from or why it exists. It's silent, but it uses footage from the sound version, and features a scene which looks like it was shot with sound but does not appear in the sound version at all. The Eastman House Print is, ironically, the most popular version of the movie due to its extremely high quality and completeness compared to the surviving materials from the other two versions.
- Impairment Shot: Erik's face goes out of focus as he uses his hypnotic power (or whatever he's using, the film is vague) to get Christine to follow him to the boat.
- Informed Attribute: Joseph Buquet describes the Phantom as having a huge hole in his face where the nose should be, but when the Phantom finally appears, he clearly does have a nose, albeit a horribly deformed one. Of course, Buquet may be exaggerating.
- Jump Scare: The aforementioned Dramatic Unmask scene. Once unmasked, the Phantom stares RIGHT at the camera and jumps to his feat. As mentioned above, this was enough to make people faint during the film's premiere.(This is one of the shots that is different in the re-release and ironically the version often referred to as the classic original scene is usually not.)
- Re Cut: A sound version of this film was made in 1929 and released in 1930, with Mary Philbin (Christine) and Norman Kerry (Raoul) reprising their roles in talking scenes, and with other scenes being re-shot. Lon Chaney was under contract to MGM so his scenes were re-used with some voiceover added. The dialogue scenes have since been lost, but the silent version of this 1929-30 recut still survives. The original 1925 edition only exists in an inferior 16mm version, so most home video and presentations use the silent 1929-30 version, which, among other differences, has a different actress playing Carlotta (Virginia Peterson in 1925, Mary Fabian in 1929).
- Slipping a Mickey: The Phantom drugs the security guards before snatching Christine from the opera stage.
- Splash of Color: Most of the movie is in black and white (usually presented with color tinting) but the Faust scenes and the masquerade were filmed in early, two-strip Technicolor. Also, for a scene of the Phantom lurking around on the roof, his robes were painstakingly colored red by hand using a complex stenciling method. The technicolor masquerade footage still exists, but the Faust and rooftop scenes only exist in black and white. Some home video versions feature a digital recreation of the rooftop's hand-colored effect.