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Image / 93 Minutes / 1925 / Unrated / Street Date: November 1, 2011
We're all familiar with The Phantom of the Opera's big shot, in which Lon Chaney doesn't just rest sparingly in the shadows - he screams to center stage, his grotesque mug coming across like a preternaturally abhorrent devil-mask. Hell, a similar image graces the cover of this Blu-ray edition of the film, which strengthens the argument that there's a certain degree of iconic moviemaking at hand in this picture.
Yet as we quickly are reminded with the 1925 version of the movie, strident movie iconography can also be... boring. Taken as an end-to-end whole, The Phantom of the Opera has scintillating nuggets of horror gold here and there, but is mostly dull, elongated setup, with the vast majority of the movie doing little more than killing time before Lon comes around.
Again, though, when the horror actor maven gets a chance to chew some scenery, the results are explosive. The romance drivel between Mary Philbin and Norman Kerry that takes place within the Paris Opera House (while Lone deviously waits below....) is positively insipid, but when Chaney gets going full-boar, he almost makes the movie's non-freaky navel-gazing dramatically tolerable.
The Phantom of the Opera is an imperative film in cinema history - this much can't be argued - but viewers who haven't seen it in many years (if at all) might find this Blu-ray edition of the movie to be limp and ineffective as a narrative story. It definitely has Chaney and the legitimately indelible visual iconography that would remain his one of his grander gifts to the form, but as a note-for-note motion picture, it's kind of a turkey.