The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror, Creature Film, Gothic Film  |   Release Date - Sep 8, 1925 (USA)  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Heavily influenced by German Expressionism, with its moody sets and murky patterns of shadows and light, The Phantom of the Opera set the style for such subsequent films as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The melodramatic tale of a deformed man, an abused outsider all his life, searching for love in a world of socialites repulsed by his presence, obviously derives from Victor Hugo's classic Hunchback novel. The film's visual emphasis on subterranean settings and impressive sets, such as the Paris Opera House, also clearly informed these later films. As the Phantom, Lon Chaney created such an empathetic villain that it was nearly impossible not to root for him. The groundbreaking use of the costly two-strip Technicolor process in some key scenes is tremendously effective in conveying the film's tone. On-set battles led to a series of directors, including Chaney himself, taking the helm for different scenes, but the final vision was that of New Zealander Rupert Julian. Even as the story deteriorates into hokey melodrama, Chaney's riveting performance holds the film together to the end. The moment when the Phantom's mask is ripped away remains one of the most chilling moments in movie history.