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The Phantom of the Opera

USA 1983
produced by
Robert Halmi sr, Robert Halmi jr (executive) for CBS
directed by Robert Markowitz
starring Maximilian Schell, Jane Seymour, Michael York, Jeremy Kemp, Diana Quick, Philip Stone, Paul Brooke, Andras Miko, Gellért Raksányi, László Németh, Jenö Kis, László Soós, Dénes Ujlaky, Teréz Bod, Ágnes Dávid, Sándor Halmágyi, Lajos Mezey, Sándor Lakatos, Pal Kovacs, Ferenc Begányi, Nóra Németh
screenplay by Sherman Yellen, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, music by Ralph Burns, special effects makeup by Stan Winston

Phantom of the Opera

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Budapest, late 19th/early 20th century: Sandor Corvin (Maximilian Schell) tries to make his wife Elena (Jane Seymour) the primadonna of the opera house, even though her vocal range is rather limited. Baron Hunyadi (Jeremy Kemp), patron of the opera house, lets her have the lead role in the house's latest production Faust anyways because he has the hots for her - but when she refuses him, he has her booed of the stage at her debut, which emotionally wrecks her to the point where she commits suicide. Sandor is determined to avenge her, but when killing the journalist (Philip Stone) in Hunyadi's employ who has written the harshest review about Elena's singing, he gets himself badly burned and disfigured by acid, and wouldn't have survived if it wasn't for the homeless mute Lajos (Gellért Raksányi), who saves him, takes care of him until he has fully recovered, and then becomes his sidekick. Why Lajos does that is never explained, nor is it ever made clear why a journalist keeps large quantities of sulphuric acid in his office ... but anyways, Sandor moves to some quarters beneath the Budapest opera house and starts wearing masks, with his face disfigured and everything.

Years later: The Budapest opera house plans to put on a new production of Faust, but the director, Michael (Michael York), just fails to get along with his leading lady, Madame Bianchi (Diana Quick). So he casts for an understudy, and thinks he's found the perfect woman to replace Madame in Maria (Jane Seymour again), an ambitious young singer he soon falls in love with. Maria though soon also attracts the attention of Sandor, now known as the Phantom, who starts to educate her as a singer because she's so alike his wife, and he also sees to it that Madame Bianchi leaves the production to give way to her (less than perfect) understudy. When she starts to spend too much time with Michael though, the Phantom gets jealous, so much so that he threatens to kill Michael, who then fires Maria from the production and gets Madame Bianchi back instead.

The Phantom kidnaps Baron Hunyadi and Maria, and while he kills the Baron, he keeps Maria as his loveslave - a relationship that goes horribly wrong after she removes his mask and sees his real monster face. Michael has since found the plans to the opera and makes his way to the Phantom's underground lair, from where he saves Maria of course.

The police plans to capture the Phantom, using Maria as bait ... and now it gets weird, in a cartoon-like sort of way: During the premiere of Faust (with Madame Bianchi in the lead), the Phantom plans to crash the big chandelier onto the audience and saws off the chain the thing is hanging from - above himself sitting on the chandelier (very much reminiscent of Wile E.Coyote in any number of Road Runner-shorts, but not played for laughs this time around). Only when he has almost sawed through the chain he notices that Maria is sitting in the audience and somehow gets her (and all the others) to realize what he's doing, so everyone saves himself, and when the chandelier crashes into the auditorium, the Phantom is the only one who dies.

 

Perhaps not the worst adaptation of Phantom of the Opera - but anything but a good film: First and foremost, the whole thing seems to be totally sloppily written - most of the characters lack motivation for their actions, there is an amazing number of plotholes and leaps of reason, and rather frequently, the characters' intentions totally change from one scene to the next withouth any explanation ... and don't even get me started on the cartoon-like ending, that's not only unintentionally ridiculous but also lacks the impact a finale of a film of this sort would need. On top of that, the cast is merely competent, nothing more, with the film's most versatile actor (Maximilian Schell) hidden behind a mask most of the movie, and the direction seems to go an extra mile to let everyone know this is just made for television and therefore as bland as can be.

In all, a major disappointment, especially since the source material has proven itself to be a great base for good shockers in the past, and the rather pittoresque Budapest settings would have deserved something much better.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD