I think the post title is pretty self-explanatory, don’t you? The Phantom of the Opera has long been one of my favorite novels, and I’ve wound up seeing about four different film versions of it (although there have been plenty more)–the original silent version with Lon Chaney, Sr., the 1940’s version with Claude Rains, the 2004 based-off-the-Broadway-play version with Gerard Butler (oh, gosh, I wish I hadn’t seen this one so very, very badly), and the 2011 commemoration-of-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-Broadway-play version with Ramin Karimloo (technically it was an official performance at the Royal Albert Hall, but I’m counting it anyway because Ramin Karimloo sings loads better than Gerard Butler. Sorry, but it’s true). Each version brought something a little different to the table, so I decided to write about it. Having a blog is so much fun!
1925: Lon Chaney, Sr., Mary Philbin, and Norman Kerry
This is the very first film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, and in many ways it is responsible for putting Universal Studios on the map as a leader in horror movies, so Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, and a host of others owe something to The Phantom of the Opera. This is a remarkable adaptation for several reasons.
- It is the closest I have ever seen any adaptation stick to the movie. Yes, it still took an awful lot of liberties, but most of the story remained the same.
- It’s got the Persian, a character who somehow got left out of all the other movies. I’ve never been happy about that because of how important he is. Perhaps the importance of his presence would be a good topic for another post.
- For not utilizing sound, Lon Chaney does a remarkable version of conveying emotion. One minute he’s got you cowering, and the next you’re pitying him because he is something of a pitiable character. Like in the book, this pitiable state makes it difficult to completely despise Erik (the Phantom). I can see why Chaney is considered a master of the silent film era; he’s good. There are no other words to describe his masterful portrayal of the tortured genius dwelling five levels below ground.
1943: Claude Rains, Susannah Foster, and Nelson Eddy
This is a more…quirky version of the book. It’s waaayyy off from the book; all of the French people sound either American or British, and someone please get Nelson Eddy to stop singing! However, I like this version because Claude Rains was an interesting Phantom to watch. Unlike the book and silent film, Erik was disfigured in an accident. Originally he was a mild-mannered violinist at the Paris Opera, but when he thought his concerto had been plagiarized, he snapped. Like a twig. It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for…
2004: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson
This is different from the previous two films in that it is based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which was based on the original novel. The musical is the longest-running play on Broadway, yet after watching this, I wondered why. Oh, my, my list of complaints against this are too numerous to list here. Another post, perhaps…in the meantime, just watch. I apologize to your eardrums.
2011: Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, and Hadley Fraser
And this is where I learned to love the musical. Better singing and acting than the 2004 movie made this incredible to watch. Another plus for this version: Hadley Fraser’s performance as Raoul. In all the versions I have seen, Raoul has never been a very strong character; consequently, I have not liked him much. However, Hadley Fraser really stepped up to the plate in this version; it was easy to see why Erik felt threatened by Raoul. And Fraser wasn’t the only one to give a stellar performance. Sierra Boggess made those superhuman notes seem absurdly easy to hit, and as for Ramin Karimloo…he *was* the Phantom of the Opera.
That’s all for now–and I even got ideas for other posts later…the importance of the Persian and why I really don’t like the 2004 movie. Will I ever get around to writing them? Time will tell.