Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
His eyes are ghastly pits in which there is no light- like holes on a grinning skull.
It has been far too long since I have seen Rupert Julian's masterful silent adaptation of Gaston Leroux's Classic novel. The first time I saw it, I was going through a musical phase and had an incessant obsession with Andrew Lloyd Webber's stellar musical adaption of the story. I had been given the opportunity to see the original film with a live orchestra and pipe organ player, and it was quite the experience. The announcer beforehand indulged us with stories on how Lon Chaney's Phantom makeup scared the piss out of theater goers in 1925, so I was expecting to be scared out of my wits. Naturally, "scary" in 1925 is absolutely nothing compared to what is scary today, and I passed it off as unintentional comedy in a very enjoyable silent film.
Now here I am, several years later and a little more knowledgeable on cinema history (I use that accolade lightly on myself). I can finally understand exactly what and why people found this film so pants-crapping scary back then. Gregory Peck once said that he saw this when he was 9. He was so scared by the Phantom that he had to sleep in bed with his Grandmother the night he saw it. Watching it now, I can tell that there are a lot of creepy horror elements present in the film that would disturb audiences in 1925, and the atmospheric organ score in the film adds so much more power to an already stellar horror film adaptation.
To give a synopsis would be pointless and a waste of time, since nearly everyone should know the story by now. A diva. A lovely singer. An angel/demon. A lover. It's a fantastic classic description of a love triangle, and it is masterfully executed in this film. Lon Chaney- the Man of 1000 Faces- is a master of horror, and his role as the Phantom in this film is the best I'll ever see. He did his own makeup all by himself, and what a job he did. A genuinely creepy disfigured monster who has gone down in cinema history as one of the most iconic horror monsters to grace the screen.
This silent adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera is far superior to Joel Schumacher's adaptation of Weber's musical in every single aspect. I know that may sound like a stupid comparison, but it really is. There's a more genuine feel to this film that's just missing from the 2004 version (and every other version produced after this one). Even though The Phantom may not be nearly as creepy compared to modern day horror elements, I still hold him in the highest regard as one of the most memorable characters in cinema history. He and Ledoux (a secret police officer) are my two favorite characters in this film. They both make this film the classic that it is today, and I believe that every film fan should be made to watch this film. It's a true silent film classic that has somehow slipped through some of the cracks of time.