Following successful reinterpretations of such horror film icons as Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, and the Wolfman, Hammer Studios turned its attention to the classic tale of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Fully aware that its small-budget efforts would be closely compared with the two
previous big-budget American versions (in 1925 starring Lon Chaney, Sr., and again in 1943 starring Claude Rains), Hammer bravely forged ahead and managed to produce a film that, while no classic, stands as a well-crafted thriller with some chilling, memorable moments. Shifting the action from
Paris to London, the film tells the familiar story of a grotesquely disfigured composer who haunts an opera house and falls hopelessly in love with a beautiful singer.
Hammer's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was originally to have starred the studio's favorite Dracula, Christopher Lee, but a last-minute switch was made in favor of Lom. While he could not hope to equal Chaney's classic tour-de-force or even Rains's memorable portrayal, Lom succeeded admirably in
creating an alternately malevolent, sympathetic, and even tragic character. Hammer had hired professional maskmakers to create the phantom's mask, but they failed to come up with a suitable design. Director Fisher tried to shoot around Lom's masked scenes while awaiting the result of the
maskmaker's work, but he finally grew impatient and had Hammer's makeup man, Roy Ashton, construct a crude mask out of cloth, tape, and gauze. The effect is perfect because the mask looks like something the Phantom would have made for himself while combing the dank sewers beneath the opera house.
Despite the film's low budget, the production has the usual Hammer eye for detail and looks as if it had an expensive treatment. Gough turns in his usual fine performance as the evil opera benefactor, while Sears (whose singing was dubbed by opera singer Pat Clark) and De Souza are serviceable as
the standard heroine and hero.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Following successful reinterpretations of such horror film icons as Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, and the Wolfman, Hammer Studios turned its attention to the classic tale of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Fully aware that its small-budget efforts would be c… (more)