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Phantom of the Opera

USA 1943
produced by
George Waggner for Universal
directed by Arthur Lubin
starring Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster, Claude Rains, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, Jane Farrar, J.Edward Bromberg, Fritz Feld, Frank Puglia, Steven Geray, Barbara Everest, Hume Cronyn, Fritz Leiber, Nicki Andre, Gladys Blake, Elvira Curci, Hans Herbert, Kate Drain Lawson, Miles Mander, Rosina Galli, Walter O.Stahl, Paul Marion, Renee Carson, Belle Mitchell, Marek Windheim, Edward Clark, Cyril Delevanti, Stanley Blystone, Lane Chandler, William Desmond
screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein, Eric Taylor, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, adaptation by John Jacoby, music by Edward Ward

Phantom of the Opera, Universal horror cycle

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Claudin (Claude Rains) is a violinist at the Paris opera who has no purpose in life but to further the career of chorus singer Christine (Susanna Foster), his secret love, even without her knowledge, and thus he even secretly pays for her singing lessons. But now he can't no longer play the violin thanks to a slight case of gout, is fired from his job and thus has no more funds to support Christine - which is why he tries to sell his concerto to publisher Pleyel (Miles Mander) - but when he (wrongly) suspects him of stealing his concerto, he murders him but not before he gets his face disfigured by acid.

Now Claudin is a murderer on the run, and of all places he decides to hide in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, from which he has access to pretty much anywhere in the house - and from here he tries to further Christine's career even better, even if that means to kill the curren leading lady (Jane Farrar) witht he purpose of having Christine sing in her place.

But Christine has two suitors who are hell-bent on catching Claudin, the baritone Anatol (Nelson Eddy) and the police inspector Raoul (Edgar Barrier), and they both have a (different) plan to capture Claudin - which leads to the opera's chandelier crashing into the auditorium during a performance, Christine being kidnapped by Claudin - who by now wears a mask to conceal his scarred face -, Claudin's concerto finally being performed by none other than Franz Liszt (Fritz Leiber), Raoul and Anatol ultimately teaming up to find Christine, and the two men saving her from the clutches of Claudin, who then dies when the catacombs that were housing him cave in.

And who gets the girl, Anatol or Raoul ?

No one, she makes a decision for fame over love - and in the end the two men are seen going to dinner with each other ...

 

Phantom of the Opera was supposed to be not just another Universal horror quickie (of which they produced quite a lot during the 1940's) but a lush production in technicolor (their first colour shocker) made on vast and expensive sets - which might all sound very interestking, but the resulting film is unfortunately less than perfect: The decision to linearly tell the story of Claudin becoming the Phantom instead of in flashbacks robs the film of much of its mystery, plus the film wastes way to much time in the beginning with the set-up during which nothing much happens, the decision of splitting the role of Christine's lover in two (the inspector and the baritone) makes no narrative sense at all and the quarrels between the two men seem to constantly slow the film's pace down at the least appropriate moments, the film is simply overburdened with (pseudo-)opera music (actually, the music was not genuine opera music but singing set to various concertoes due to copyright reasons) to a point where the music stands in the way of the proceedings, and the colour actually deprives the film of its eerie atmosphere instead of adding to it. That director Arthur Lubin apparently has no sense for suspense also does not help one bit. On the plus side of course, the acting in this film is rather fine and the posh sets are a far cry from Universal's horror B-movies - but unfortunately that alone doesn't make a film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD