The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror, Creature Film, Gothic Film  |   Release Date - Jun 25, 1962 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This Hammer-produced take on this iconic horror antihero was not a hit during its original release but time has been kind to it. The script takes liberties with the plot of Gaston Leroux's novel but the changes work: the addition of a strong villain and the retooling of the Phantom's backstory give the film its own, uniquely tragic tone, as does the emphasis on dramatic elements over horrific ones. Terence Fisher's direction is stylish, fully delivering the lush atmosphere expected from a Hammer film, but he also shows a confident touch with his actors, getting strong performances that drive the material as much as his visual flourishes. In terms of performances, Heather Sears offers a winning, sympathetic performance as the heroine and Edward De Souza makes for a charming, heroic love interest. However, the film truly belongs to Michael Gough and Herbert Lom: Gough is delightfully wicked as the music mogul whose sleazy machinations drive the plot and Lom is frightening and sympathetic by turns as the title character, a decent man driven to tragic extremes by the cruelty of Gough's character. On the critical side, Phantom Of The Opera does have some flaws: the tone shifts from scares to drama can be a bit abrupt at times and the rather rushed finale leaves a few plot threads dangling in a frustrating manner. That said, Hammer's Phantom Of The Opera is a solid addition to the screen treatments of this character and recommended to fans of the studio.