When Life Imitates Art

Random Phantom of the Opera post here again. They just won’t die (not that I want them to).

It’s pretty well known that despite being described as blonde in the book, most Phantom adaptations portray Christine as brunette. I can think of only two or three versions where she’s shown as a blonde; most versions show her as brunette, and I just kind of came to accept it as the imperfect world where book adaptations are never 100% faithful to the book.

But then I found this video of Emmi Christensson, who is currently playing Christine in the London production of The Phantom of the Opera. What is so notable about Emmi?

  1. She is Swedish, just like Christine is in the book.
  2. She is a natural blonde, so they let her have a blonde wig in the production.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a blonde Swedish soprano playing…a blonde Swedish soprano.

What makes it even better is that her voice sounds remarkably close to the voice I imagined for Christine when I read the book. So now I have found my ideal Phantom (John Owen-Jones) and my ideal Christine (Emmi Christensson). There’s even an audio recording of the two of them singing the title song together, which makes my nerdy little heart extremely happy.

Now all I have to do is figure out my dream Raoul (Hadley Fraser is extremely close), and then I’ll have my ideal cast.

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Mauve Alert! New Doctor Who Companion Announced!

After months of intense speculation, we finally know who will be playing the new companion on Doctor Who. The Doctor’s latest companion is a 2017 Earth girl named Bill, portrayed by Pearl Mackie.

We don’t know much about her other than she likes to ask questions and say things that pretty much everyone who has ever watched the show has thought at least one time. But from what I’ve seen so far, I like her.

Welcome aboard the TARDIS, Bill!

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Victor Frankenstein: Surprisingly Good

A couple of weeks ago I got around to watching Victor Frankenstein, a fanciful little tale that came out last November. I knew right from the get-go that this movie was going to have 100% nothing in common with the book. I knew the prickly pedant in me would not hesitate to tear it to shreds for all of its divergences. I knew this version of the Monster would still not be the philosophizing phenom that Mary Shelley wrote in her book. I knew all of these things, all of them–and I watched it anyway because the trailer looked cool.

But you know what? It was actually a pretty good movie. It follows the story of Igor (which is automatically a dead giveaway that this is nothing like the book because there’s no Igor in the book) and how he became Frankenstein’s assistant. In this version, Igor is a clown in a traveling circus and is often mocked and abused because of his hunchback. He finds comfort in books and is a self-trained doctor of sorts, treating the various ailments that afflict his fellow circus performers. These skills prove invaluable when he saves the life of Lorelei, a trapeze artist who slips and falls in the middle of a performance. Frankenstein is one of witnesses when Igor saves Lorelei and realizes that this man has a great mind and is made for better things than the circus, so he takes him home, fixes his back, gives him clean clothes, and puts him to work as his assistant.

One of the things I wanted to give this movie credit for doing is avoiding the love triangle cliche. As soon as I saw Lorelei, I thought, “Oh, boy, here we go, Victor’s going to fall in love with Lorelei, too, and it’s going to cause tension between him and Igor, and it’s going to be one of the reasons they stop working together, and why are these things so stupid?” But that isn’t what happened at all. Igor and Lorelei got to have a happy little relationship with very little interference from Frankenstein. Granted, he didn’t approve of their relationship because he felt it distracted Igor from their work, but he didn’t stand in their way, either. On a similar note, I was surprised that there was no mention of Frankenstein’s fiance Elizabeth. Maybe in this version he wasn’t engaged (which is easy to believe), but her absence still seemed a bit odd.

The friendship between Frankenstein and Igor was unexpectedly layered, thanks in part to James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe’s excellent acting. Radcliffe brought Igor to life, making him feel like a real person instead of a caricature, and McAvoy electrified (no pun intended) the screen as Frankenstein, capturing the mad scientist’s charisma and passion in a way I have rarely seen. He also brought out Frankenstein’s arrogance, most notable in the way he treats Igor. He regards Igor less as his own person and more as an object–at one point he even tells Igor, “You are my greatest creation.” Igor, on the other hand, is a loyal friend, grateful to Frankenstein for the way he changed his life yet willing to challenge him when he thinks he’s going too far. I think Frankenstein does recognize and appreciate that loyalty even if he doesn’t do a very good job of reciprocating.

Another aspect I liked was the philosophy portion. So many movies these days are all flash and no thought, but Victor Frankenstein requires you to think. There are many conversations about God, science, if there should be a boundary between the two, and how far that boundary should extend. There’s one scene where Frankenstein and Igor are trying to convince Lorelei of the importance of their work, and Lorelei is understandably cautious, yet she cannot help but be enthralled by the picture Frankenstein paints of the good he hopes his work will accomplish.

I know this movie didn’t get very many positive reviews, but I found it unexpectedly enjoyable. They left the end open for a sequel, and if that movie is of the same caliber as this one, I wouldn’t complain in the least.

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Godzilla will be Resurging at a Theater near You!

After the mostly successful release of an American Godzilla movie in 2014, Toho, the movie studio that made all of the original Godzilla movies, announced that they were going to release another Godzilla movie of their own. After Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004, Toho decided to stop making Godzilla movies, but the 2014 American version was so popular in Japan that they decided it would be worthwhile to resurrect the real Godzilla with Godzilla: Resurgence.

  • Guy in a giant lizard suit? Check.
  • Models of Japanese cities ripe for destruction? Check.
  • Scenes of carnage and destruction? Check.
  • Worried-looking people in suits and military uniforms? Check.
  • Actors that I’m pretty certain have been in other Godzilla films and have probably been recast as completely different characters? Check.
  • Tanks and planes loaded with missiles that we all know will be useless? Check.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we have a genuine Godzilla movie on our hands.

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In Honor of Quasimodo Sunday…

…I present the complete soundtrack for the stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

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“You Will Sing Only for Me”: A Review of the 1962 “Phantom of the Opera”

Yes, the Opera Ghost once more creeps from his murky underground lair to cast his ominous shadow over my blog. To be honest, though, I’m happy to have found a topic for another Phantom post–it feels like forever since I’ve written on this topic.

This particular version of The Phantom of the Opera was a Hammer Films production from 1962 and starred Herbert Lom as the Phantom, Heather Sears as Christine, and Edward de Souza as…Harry? Yes, it’s Harry, not Raoul, because this version is set in London, so I suppose Raoul didn’t sound English enough. On the future Doctor Who star front, we had Michael Gough (the Toymaker) as scheming sleazebag Lord Ambrose d’Arcy and Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor) as the Rat Catcher…who was on screen for all of five minutes before a dwarf stabbed him in the eye. Oh, well.

So in this version, Harry is producing Lord d’Arcy’s new opera about Joan of Arc, but mysterious acts of sabotage keep happening in the theater as they get closer to opening night–the pages of the score are torn and missing; the drums have been slashed; one of the stagehands is found hanging from a beam as his body swings out onto the stage and terrifies the audience and the singers–y’know, the usual. The soprano Maria, who was supposed to play Joan, flat-out refused to return to the stage after the whole incident with the hanging body, but all is not lost. Harry discovers that Christine, one of the members of the chorus, has a lovely singing voice and with a little training would be perfect for the role of Joan. Lord Ambrose the Skeezy invites Christine to dinner to discuss giving her lessons, but she hears a mysterious voice in her dressing room warning her not to trust him. The voice also goes on to say that he will teach Christine how to sing, but she must sing only for him. When Christine later tells Harry of the voice she heard, they both return to the dressing room to investigate further, but they are both involved in something they do not understand…and they run the risk of angering the Phantom unless they both do as he says.

Like the 1943 version, the Phantom is a mild-mannered musician who snaps like a twig when he suspects his music has been stolen (in this version, it really is) and has his face scarred with etching acid. The deformity makeup was very interesting in this movie–and still leagues ahead of what they had in the 2004 version.

Herbert Lom as the Phantom

Professor Petrie is not impressed by your bad sunburn.

What I didn’t particularly like was how they gave the Phantom a henchman in the form of the mysterious dwarf. It made the Phantom less powerful and menacing, and I feel the character loses something that way. Yes, it made him more sympathetic because the dwarf was the one running around murdering everyone (and not necessarily at the Phantom’s behest), but making the Phantom less terrifying lessens the impact of the story. What was especially interesting was that they toned down his obsession with Christine. In this version he’s not necessarily in love with her, but in her voice he hears the kind of talent he always wanted to perform his music, which is why he trains her as relentlessly as he does.

Harry, on the other hand, is my favorite movie Raoul. He has no patience for stupid and gets things done. When Christine is in danger, he jumps into action without a second thought, and he is the one who pieces together the Phantom’s identity when no one else can figure it out. A lot of the narration focused on Harry’s investigations into the Phantom’s identity, which made it similar to the book’s focus on Raoul’s attempts to figure out what was haunting Christine.

All in all, it was an enjoyable movie despite the deviations from the book. It felt odd to have the Phantom’s character be so muted, but Harry more than made up for it. And if you can enjoy a movie despite its deviations from its source material, it’s a sign that the screen writers managed to do their job and do it well.

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Happy Easter!

O Sons and Daughers, let us sing!
The King of Heaven, the glorious King
O’er death today rose triumphing. Alleluia!

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