Synopsis by Hal Erickson
This Technicolor retelling of the Gaston Leroux "grand guignol" classic The Phantom of the Opera has a little more opera than phantom, but that's because the stars are soprano Susannah Foster and tenor Nelson Eddy. Claude Rains carries the acting honors on his shoulders, playing a pathetic orchestra violinist who worships aspiring opera-singer Foster from afar. The girl is unaware that Rains has secretly been financing her music lessons with instructor Leo Carrillo. When he runs out of money, Rains attempts to sell the concerto that he's been working on all his life. Mistakenly believing that his precious concerto has been stolen from him, Rains attacks and kills the music publisher he holds responsible. Terrified, the publisher's mistress throws a pan full of acid into Rains' face. Rains runs screaming into the night, and is not heard from for the next reel or so. Soon afterward, the Paris Opera house is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents. The managers are informed via letter that the "accidents" will continue if Foster is not immediately promoted to leading roles. Only after reigning diva Jane Farrar is drugged into incapacitation is Foster given her big break. Farrar accuses Foster's boyfriend, police inspector Nelson Eddy, of doping her in order to advance Foster's career. Farrar is later strangled, and Eddy is accused of the crime. The culprit is, of course, Rains, who now poses as the masked-and-caped "phantom". Maniacally determined that no one will impede Foster's success, Rains causes a huge chandelier to crash down on the opera audience when Foster fails to appear onstage (she'd been kept from performing by police-chief Edgar Barrier, who hoped in this manner to flush The Phantom out of hiding). A chase through the catacombs below the opera house ensues, with Rains holding Foster prisoner. When Rains briefly lets down his guard, the tremulous Foster removes his mask. It's "yecccch," all right, but nowhere near as frightening as the unmasking scene in the silent Lon Chaney version of Phantom of the Opera. The same can be said for the rest of this 1943 remake, though in fairness it appears as though the film wasn't really designed to scare anyone, but instead to serve as a suspense yarn with musical interludes. Hume Cronyn makes his second film appearance in Phantom in a microscopic role. The huge sets designed for this picture were hastily reused for the 1944 Universal melodrama The Climax, starring Boris Karloff and (again) Susannah Foster.
chase, music-publisher, opera, opera-house, opera-singer, singer, soprano [voice]