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Film / The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

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"I think there is something... evil... in this theater, Christine. Something or someone trying to stop the opera from ever being performed."
Harry Hunter

The Phantom of the Opera with Hammer Horror approach, released in 1962. Like many other Hammer productions, it was directed by Terence Fisher.

Mysterious events of sabotage at an opera house in Victorian London plague their premiere of a new opera about the life of Joan of Arc composed by Lord Ambrose d'Arcy (Michael Gough), an arrogant aristocrat. The producer of the opera, Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza), is determined to discover who is behind the events while also looking for a replacement for the lead soprano, who was frightened into leaving the production. A promising young singer named Christine Charles (Heather Sears) auditions for the role. Harry believes her to be perfect for the part, and the two end up falling in love.

When Christine is kidnapped, Harry discovers that she has been taken to the sewers beneath the opera house, where a masked man known as the Phantom (Herbert Lom) is giving her vocal lessons. He reveals to the two that he is in fact a former music professor named Petrie, whose compositions—including the opera—were plagiarised by Lord d'Arcy, to whom he had gone for help with getting them published. After breaking into the printer's to destroy the falsely-attributed music in a fit of rage, Petrie's face was disfigured by etching acid, and in the years since he has lived as an outcast below the theatre. Now he only wishes to hear his work performed and believes Christine can do justice to the leading role of Joan with his help.

This film has examples of:

  • Abominable Auditorium: The London Opera House is the territory of two villains: crooked publisher Lord Ambrose D'Arcy is running the opera house into the ground in his efforts to get his magnum opus just to his liking, while also actively trying to seduce young singers; meanwhile, the Phantom and his henchman are undermining D'Arcy by sabotaging instruments, destroying props and murdering staff .
  • Aborted Arc: Lord Ambrose d'Arcy runs away in fright after pulling off the Phantom's mask and seeing his disfigured face, never to appear in the film again. Was he ever brought to any sort of justice for his evil actions?
  • Absent-Minded Professor: The former landlady of Professor Petrie describes him as this. He taught singing at the academy... when he remembered to go there.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewers inhabited by the Phantom beneath the opera house appear as a massive underground cavern. How he managed to furnish it with things like a giant organ, a bed, and a table and chairs is anyone's guess... though there's certainly enough room for it all down there.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Phantom did not kill anyone inside of the film and is more noble.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Christine Daae becomes Christine Charles in this version, and the Phantom is Professor Petrie rather than Erik (while never stated, it's made clear his first name is not Erik as an initialed piece of sheet music shows it begins with the letter L). Also, this adaptation's closest equivalent of Raoul de Chagney is called Harry Hunter.
  • All There in the Manual: Though it's never specified in the film, according to the pressbook Petrie became the Phantom five years prior to its events.
  • Alliterative Name: Christine Charles, Harry Hunter
  • Anachronism Stew: The opera is called St. Joan, but Joan of Arc wasn't canonized until 1920. The film takes place in 1900.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The utterly despicable Lord Ambrose d'Arcy, who can easily be regarded as the true villain of the film.
  • Ax-Crazy: The dwarf, who goes around killing people for no apparent reason. He's described by the Phantom as being "uncontrollable" like a "wild animal".
  • Beautiful Singing Voice: Both Harry and the Phantom regard Christine's singing voice as being exceptionally good, though the latter believes it can be improved to reach its full potential with his tutelage.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Petrie gets to hear his music performed, but dies saving Christine.
  • Body Horror: The acid burns Petrie received have melted his eye and caused his skin to turn grey and start peeling off in places.
  • Burn the Witch!: The chorus of townspeople in the courtroom scene during the opera shout this regarding Joan.
  • Chewing the Scenery: It's abundantly clear how much Michael Gough relished playing the utter slimeball that is Lord Ambrose d'Arcy due to how much he does this in every scene he's in.
    "[at a snide comment from the opera conductor] What did you say? [the orchestra keeps playing] STOP IT! STOP IT I SAY!!! You're dismissed."
  • Covers Always Lie: The original poster depicts the Phantom swinging on the soon-to-be-falling chandelier as the audience below looks up in terror. Actually, he is not in any way responsible for the chandelier's fall in this version - in fact, he dies after he sees it coming down and pushes Christine out of its way. The Phantom also never holds the swooning Christine in his arms as the inset image would have you believe. Practically all of the promotional images for this film depict it as being far more shocking and horrific than it actually is.
  • Creative Sterility: All the music supposedly written by Lord Ambrose d'Arcy turns out to be the work of Professor Petrie, from whom he stole the credit. Before that revelation, Harry Hunter even remarks that he can't understand how d'Arcy could suddenly produce such excellent music with so little musical taste.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Professor Petrie's backstory involves him having the music that was his life's work stolen by an evil aristocrat and getting his face scarred in a tragic accident.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: As frightening as Petrie is to look at, his intentions are good.
  • Date Rape Averted: Lord d'Arcy has dinner with Christine, then invites her to his apartment afterward for "singing lessons". Knowing full well what this means, Christine tries to get out of it but is initially unsuccessful until Harry happens to walk in the restaurant. Christine asks him to accompany them, only for d'Arcy to immediately cancel his plans, much to her relief.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harry Hunter is quite snarky at times, particularly when dealing with Lord d'Arcy.
    Harry: What I don't understand is how Ambrose d'Arcy can write so much excellent music in the last few years when he has so little musical taste.
    d'Arcy: [coming up behind him] Thank you, Mr. Hunter.
    Harry: You're welcome.
  • Deathly Unmasking: The film concludes with the Phantom unmasking himself, acid-induced scarring and all, before pushing Christine out of the way of the Falling Chandelier of Doom, getting crushed to death under it in the process.
  • Death by Looking Up: After pushing Christine out of the way of the chandelier, the Phantom lays on the ground looking upward helplessly as it falls and crushes him.
  • Death Glare: Petrie gives one to d'Arcy, made even more chilling by the way he simultaneously says "Good evening, Lord Ambrose." The tone of his voice makes it clear he's seething with fury.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Petrie's unnamed hunchbacked assistant, who performs all the killings in the film.
  • Dirty Old Man: Lord d'Arcy, who tries to convince Christine to accompany him back to his apartment in the middle of the night for "singing lessons". Luckily she is rescued by Harry, but d'Arcy is so angered by her rejection of him that he dismisses her from the opera.
    d'Arcy: [to Christine] You're a delicious little thing. I'm going to enjoy teaching you.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: In contrast to his literary counterpart, Petrie appears to be half-blind following his disfigurement.
  • Disease Bleach: Petrie's hair has turned a pale blond colour in the years he's been the Phantom, apparently due to his encounter with the acid.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Used twice by Petrie:
    • First his face is revealed offscreen by Lord d'Arcy by ripping off his mask, who promptly runs away at the sight of it, never to be seen again.
    • He does this second time by randomly taking off his mask before swooping in to rescue Christine from a Falling Chandelier of Doom.
  • Dutch Angle: Petrie's Troubled Backstory Flashback was shot entirely using these.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Even though she isn't showing any fear, Hunter picks up Christine anticipating this reaction and places her on top of a crate when they see escaped rats from rat catcher's bag scurrying about.
  • Eye Scream: Petrie's assistant kills the rat catcher by stabbing him in the eye with a knife. There's also the fact that one of Petrie's own eyes is missing, presumably because the acid that disfigured his face melted it away.
  • Facial Horror: Thanks to the acid that splashed on Petrie's face, half of it has died.
  • Fainting: When Christine comes face to face with The Phantom the first time, she screams and faints on the spot. She also does this when the dwarf appears at her window, remaining unconscious while he abducts her and carries her down to the Phantom's lair.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Naturally there is one, but surprisingly it does not fall at the Phantom's hands. He saves Christine from it, sacrificing his life in the process.
  • Flat Character: The dwarf, who exists solely to commit gratuitous murders for their shock value. He cannot speak and seems not to be able to effectively communicate in any way, and no details about the character's personality are ever revealed, except for the fact that he's Ax-Crazy. The Phantom himself has no clue to the guy's identity or what his deal is, but feels no need to question things since the latter saved his life and befriended him.
  • Foreshadowing: At the beginning of the film, Harry questions how Lord d'Arcy could suddenly start writing great pieces of music when he is known to lack musical taste. This hints to it having been plagiarised, as it is eventually revealed to be.
  • Granny Classic: Mrs. Tucker, Christine's kindly landlady who acts motherly toward her.
  • The Grotesque: Professor Petrie is easily one of the scariest-looking film Phantoms (even when masked), but he means no harm and his story is absolutely heartbreaking.
  • Hate Sink: Two examples:
    • Anyone who watches this movie will undoubtedly end up loathing Lord Ambrose d'Arcy, a lecher and plagiarist who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Frustratingly and inexplicably for a character set up to be the target of such audience hatred, he ends up being a Karma Houdini.
    • The mute dwarf is a bizarre character whose sole purpose for existing in the film seems to be to commit the acts of violence and murder so that the Phantom remains a blameless, sympathetic figure. The aforementioned killings are done merely for their shock value and have no real relevance to the plot. As the story mainly focuses on the investigation into the mystery of a sabotaged opera production which ultimately reveals the "monster" to be entirely benevolent and misunderstood, the need was apparently felt to remind the audience that yes, this is supposed to be a horror movie.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Petrie sees that the chandelier is about to fall and pushes Christine out of its way, getting crushed by it himself.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Petrie entrusting the publication of his music to Lord d'Arcy, apparently never suspecting (in spite of how dismissive and rude d'Arcy was) that he might not be on the up and up.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: d'Arcy says as much to the opera's conductor, Rossi.
    d'Arcy: When I require any help from you, I shall ask for it.
    Rossi: Then you had better ask for it now because you most certainly need it.
  • The Igor: The Phantom's hunchbacked dwarf assistant is essentially an Expy of the Trope Namer.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The opera manager, Lattimer, needs a brandy after he finally musters the courage to stand up to d'Arcy.
  • Importation Expansion: For television airings in the United States, Universal added several new scenes to extend the film's runtime. These involved two Scotland Yard inspectors, played by Liam Redmond and John Maddison, doing an investigation of the strange goings-on at the opera house. Hammer had no input in the making of these scenes.
  • In Name Only: Though this film features a disfigured, masked musician living beneath an opera house and the heroine's name is Christine, that's really where the similarities to Gaston Leroux's novel end. The story takes place in London rather than Paris, the Phantom and Christine don't seem to have any sort of romantic feelings for one another, the subject of the Phantom's opera is Joan of Arc instead of Don Juan, and he started out as a normal-looking man before his face was scarred by acid. There's also the curious addition of the mute dwarf character, whose sole purpose for existence seems to be to commit the obligatory murders so this Phantom remains blameless and totally sympathetic.
  • It's All About Me: This is the attitude Ambrose d'Arcy has. He cares for no one's feelings but his own, and takes credit for Petrie's music because of the adoration he receives from those who think he wrote it.
  • Jerkass: Lord Ambrose d'Arcy, big time. He is a nasty piece of work who can get away with his horrible behaviour due to his wealth and status.
  • Karma Houdini: Ambrose d'Arcy never pays for his crimes. What little comeuppance (if it can be called that) he gets is a fright upon seeing Petrie's disfigured face.
  • The Kindnapper: The Phantom has his dwarf assistant abduct Christine so he can give her voice lessons to improve her performance in the lead role of his opera.
  • Lack of Empathy: Lord Ambrose d'Arcy doesn't care who he hurts to achieve his own ends.
  • Large Ham: Petrie has a tendency to be overly dramatic.
    "You will be the greatest star the opera has ever known. GREATER THAN THE GREATEST!!!"
  • Last-Name Basis: Professor Petrie's full name is never revealed, which is odd considering he is the main character. The only hint as to his first name is given when the manuscript for a symphony he wrote is shown. On it he is credited as L. Petrie, which dispels any assumption that his name is Erik like in the book the film is based on.
  • Lighter and Softer: Contrary to the other adaptations, only two people die in the movie, and neither by Phantom's hands.
  • Love Triangle: Averted. The Phantom shows no romantic interest in Christine whatsoever, which is highly unusual for an adaptation of this story. Thus there is no rivalry between he and the Raoul Expy, Harry, for her affections. His only goal is to teach her to sing so she can properly perform the lead role in his opera.
  • Mad Artist: Only thing that Petrie cares about now is his music getting released.
  • Masking the Deformity: As with most Phantoms of the Opera, Petrie wears a mask to hide his disfigured face. In this version it's a crude one made of some sort of material like papier-mâché or cloth.
  • Never Found the Body: When Petrie fled the printers after his face was burned by acid, he jumped into the river. The policeman who witnessed what happened was certain Petrie then died as the current was so fast, and never bothered to have the river dragged for his body.
  • Nice Guy: The Phantom. Yes, in this adaptation he is entirely a good person, a pitiful victim of someone else's cruel actions who only wants to vocally train Christine so she can reach her full potential as a singer. He's not even the one who does the killings in the film. Harry Hunter also qualifies, as he is shown to be a kind and noble man who shields Christine from d'Arcy's lecherous advances (even before being romantically involved with her) and shows sympathy for the Phantom's plight.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The Phantom, who is really just a victim of Lord Ambrose D'Arcy's cruelty. He himself never harms anyone and has Christine's best interests at heart.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the flashback, Petrie when he realises that d'Arcy is intentionally taking credit for his music.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Petrie's assistant sabotages Carlotta's performance by ripping a piece of scenery and letting a hanged corpse appear to terrify everyone.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: Lord Ambrose d'Arcy steals Professor Petrie's musical compositions and claims them as his own.
  • Sanity Slippage: Though it's implied that he was always a bit eccentric, there are definitely signs that Petrie has started to lose his mind since becoming the Phantom. Notably there's the scene when he randomly walks away in the middle of teaching Christine to sing and starts speaking to someone who isn't there. What he says is later revealed to be what he once said to Lord d'Arcy while trying to convince him to help publish his music; he was reliving that moment in his mind.
  • Say My Name: Harry shouts Christine's name when he sees the chandelier about to fall above her.
  • Setting Update: This adaptation moves the setting from 1880s Paris to London in 1900.
  • Show Within a Show: Petrie's opera about Joan of Arc.
  • Single Tear: Petrie sheds a tear as Christine sings his work on stage.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: It is heavily implied that Lord d'Arcy is more interested in hiring women who are willing to do this than the ones with actual singing talent.
  • Slimeball: This is Ambrose d'Arcy to a T. His sleaziness is especially evident during the scene where he has dinner with Christine. It's clear he won't let her sing in "his" opera (which he, in fact, plagiarized) unless she is willing to sleep with him (she isn't).
  • Smug Snake: Ambrose d'Arcy, who is incredibly arrogant and disdainful of everyone around him.
  • The Speechless: Petrie's assistant cannot speak, so even he doesn't know his name.
  • Staggered Zoom: The opening credits take place as camera does this on the Phantom's one good eye.
  • Standard Snippet: Petrie plays Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor with his pipe organ as his assistant kidnaps Christine.
  • Starving Artist: Professor Petrie was one when he sold his music to Lord d'Arcy. Though it embarrassed him, he asked for a small advance so he could pay overdue rent to his landlady.
  • Touch of the Monster: Posters and promotional artwork depict the Phantom carrying the unconscious Christine in his arms. However, he never does this in the actual film. One could easily get the (ironically, given the source material) false impression that it's a Beast and Beauty love story. Here the Phantom's only interest in Christine is to prepare her to play the lead in his opera by teaching her how to use her voice to its full potential.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: During the flashback, Professor Petrie is enraged to learn that Ambrose d'Arcy is passing his music off as his own. He breaks into the publisher's building and begins throwing what has been printed so far into the furnace. That in itself is an impulsive act serving no purpose other than to help him vent his anger, as surely d'Arcy would continue to print the falsely-attributed music regardless. Then when a fire begins, he grabs the first jar of liquid he can get his hands on to try to put it out. It turns out to be nitric acid...
  • Tragic Monster: The Phantom, a former professor whose horrific disfigurement was caused (indirectly) by the wicked Lord d'Arcy, who took advantage of him and robbed him of credit for his music compositions.
  • Training from Hell: Professor Petrie is relentless in his vocal instruction of Christine, forcing her to train to the point of exhaustion. When she wearily says she can't do it anymore, he slaps her, angrily telling her she won't become a great singer without suffering.
  • Trauma Button: When Petrie slaps Christine and says she isn't going to be a great singer if she doesn't suffer, he asks if she thinks he hasn't suffered. This results in him briefly walking away from her and muttering to himself, reliving the moment when he agreed to sell his music to Lord d'Arcy.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Poor, poor Professor Petrie... because he is struggling financially, he decides to try getting his music published in the hopes it will bring him fame and wealth. Unfortunately he ends up entrusting it to the wrong person, who steals credit for it from him. Enraged, he breaks into the printer's one night to destroy the falsely-attributed music, only to accidentally start a fire which he tries to put out with what he thinks is water but is really acid. He suffers painful burns that disfigure his face, even causing him to lose one of his eyes. For years he lives as an outcast in the sewers, and in the end gets impaled by a falling chandelier.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: There is one that explains how Professor Petrie became the Phantom. He was a composer who came to Lord d'Arcy for help with publishing his music, only to be betrayed when d'Arcy claimed it as his own work. The furious Petrie broke into the publisher's building to destroy the freshly printed copies of the music. A fire broke out, and his face was horribly scarred when he tried to extinguish it with nitric acid he mistook for water.
  • Tyop on the Cover: In-Universe. Professor Petrie's handwritten cover page for his "Symphony No. 1" misspells it as "Symphany No. 1". It's unclear whether this was intentional on the part of the filmmakers.
  • Victorian London: Instead of Paris, this version of the story is set in London during the late Victorian era.
  • White Mask of Doom: Petrie wears one that covers his entire face except for his single eye.
  • Wild Child: The dwarf, whose behaviour is very feral. This is lampshaded by the Phantom when he says that his assistant acts like a wild animal at times.
  • Would Hit a Girl: While a much kinder and gentler Phantom, Petrie becomes frustrated when Christine says she is too tired to continue her singing lesson and slaps her. He's one of the few Phantoms in adaptations to actually strike Christine.
  • You Fool!: Petrie yells this at Christine when she becomes exhausted from his non-stop vocal training.
    "You little fool! You think you can become a great singer without suffering?"