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The Phantom of the Opera (1925) – Episode 42 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“Feast your eyes–glut your soul on my accursed ugliness!”  Remember the old if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods question? If Lon Chaney has a line in a silent-film and no one hears it, is it still a quote?  This episode’s Grue Crew says, “Yes! If it appears in quotes on an intertitle card!” Join this episode’s Grue Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr – as they make their third trip to the land of silent screams and visit the Paris opera house as depicted in Universal’s The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 42 — The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

After the success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Universal Pictures’ Carl Laemmle needed another vehicle for the considerable talents of Lon Chaney and seized on the timeless story told in Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. Directed, at least in part, by Rupert Julian, The Phantom of the Opera tells the tale of a man, disfigured in both appearance and character. He is infatuated with a beautiful woman and plots to gain her trust by mentoring her singing career and follows that with subterfuge, manipulation, and coercion in an insane attempt to win her hand.

The cast of The Phantom of the Opera features Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, and Norman Kerry. Of course, Chaney is the star of the film. Not only does he knock it out of the park with another groundbreaking effort in makeup artistry, but his performance as the Phantom/Erik is truly inspired. Universal’s Stage 28 set, designed by Ben Carré, deserves its own star billing as the grandeur of the Paris Opera House is recreated complete with stage, giant chandelier, opera boxes, cellars, and underground torture chambers.

The members of the Grue Crew are universally moved by Chaney’s artistry and dedication. Whitney recounts the joys of using collodion for makeup effects, the impact of seeing the film as a five-year-old, and her affection for the metal-band musical connections to The Phantom of the Opera. The multitude of different versions of the film, which one should you watch, and the true story of Mary Philbin’s lost love send Jeff down the rabbit hole again. Joseph agrees that the various versions and the multiple, creative hands in the pie are evident in the film. The pain experienced by Chaney as a result of the makeup appliances used for the Phantom make an impression on Chad, but he still manages to find yet another connection to the Batman TV series.

The Decades of Horror: The Classic Era Grue Crew plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule will be The Return of the Vampire (1943)! More Bela Lugosi!

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcast, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you so much for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.