The Phantom of the Opera (1943)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Drama, Melodrama, Period Film, Creature Film  |   Release Date - Aug 27, 1943 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by Hans J. Wollstein

Universal lavished Technicolor on this, the studio's long-awaited remake of the 1925 Lon Chaney classic. The powers at be also secured the services of Claude Rains in the title role but although a fine character actor, the soft-spoken Britisher may not be everyone's idea of a horror star. Leery of the typecasting that almost inevitably had bedeviled predecessors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, Rains refused the kind of grotesque makeup that shocked the movie going audience nearly 20 years earlier, allowing Universal makeup wizard Jack Pierce to apply only a very moderate and not very hideous scar. Thus, the drama's much-awaited set piece, Christine's (Susanna Foster) unveiling of the true condition of her secret benefactor, proves not only anti-climactic but also somewhat absurd. What, you may justly ask, was all the fuss about? Although a huge box-office hit back in 1943, some commentators already then questioned the lack of true horror and the same complaint may be raised today. Happily, director Arthur Lubin and ace cameraman Hal Mohr manage to create quite a bit of excitement and atmosphere -- the opening tracking shot, serving to introduce the drama's main characters, remains as effective as Orson Welles' similar but much more famous tour-de-force in Touch of Evil (1957) -- and Universal's magnificent (and still standing) theater set never looked better. In other words, this version of Phantom of the Opera is more Grand Opera than Grand Guignol, a clear indication, in fact, that the confection was originally intended for the studio's popular songbird, Deanna Durbin.