lobsta’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wow I had no idea it was directed by the first actor, director, writer and producer NZer! I actually really got into the story partly because of the restored look and evocative tints (and surprising colour scenes that I wasn't expecting). I thought I knew a little more of the Phantom than I actually did I think somewhere down the line I mixed it with the hunchback of notre dame, so it was a interesting experience going into it relatively fresh.
I'm not typically great with silent films with very few of them watched but the operatic quality of the film really connected. The cinematography is brilliant and that stage/operahouse is a fantastic setting, really impressive wide shots that have such a vertical grandeur. I got a little swept up into the story seeing the first half or so as quite emotionally wrought with quite a genuine sympathy for the monstrous phantom Erik.
I think that's what gave the second half much more palpable horror than I expected from what seemed a pretty innocentish love story, the genuine connection is twisted when he reveals himself as both a physical monster and to be a sadistic bastard of Saw level proportions that combined with the jealous schadenfreude and overwhelming desire to Stockholm syndrome Christine (Mary Philibin) really plays well.
Lon Chaney Sr is absolutely fantastic with the dedication to his (by the end) mad performance driving the movie. The rest of the cast was pretty standard silent film stuff that I couldn't quite get into but just one of those things I guess. I didn't know that the phantom was 'a master of the dark arts' and even now I'm not too sure whether that was a rumour that embellished with his grotesqueness or genuine truth. Arthur Edmund Carewe also has interesting role here as Ledoux which I wont go into (I hope it inspired Reggie Ledoux from True Detective) but his position in the narrative was both surprising and well handled keeping suspense.
I really loved the cinematography once again, there's something about the expressionistic shadowy style that when layered with castles, moats and in this case an opera house it really pops, and the restoration helped. The colour scenes that come from nowhere are quite unexpected but a great addition and the party looked excellent. Great that it still lives up to it's historical legacy.