The Phantom of the Opera ★★★½

"No longer like a toad in these foul cellars will I secrete the venom of hatred -- for you shall bring me love!"

An exhausting three-course meal of a film, The Phantom of the Opera (1925) feels much longer than it is. That's not to say it's bad, but it's... a lot. My favorite parts of the film were, naturally, the Phantom make up and the brightly entertaining piano score, but my favorite surprises from the film were the performances of Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin. Nearly all the 1920s films I've seen are German, and seeing the American actors' approach to a silent gothic story was really special. It's interesting to compare the terrifying Karloff-esque villainy of Lon Chaney Sr. to the famously sympathetic Wolf Man of Lon Chaney Jr.

Besides the phenomenal Phantom face, the overall makeup and costume for everyone is great, especially with the bold eyeliner and the Faust costumes. I love that Devil costume! (Please go watch Faust 1926 if you haven't yet. I'll wait.)

The many sets are humongous and full of personality. Something that always surprises me about these early American films vs German films is the sheer size and quality of the American production values, especially in their set design. In my humble opinion the Germans were far more artistic with their limited resources, but the American films are always so BIG and there's something fun about the spectacle of that.

The story of the Phantom of the Opera is well-known and the movie does well enough telling it, however that's also the film's biggest drawback. As well as it's made and directed, the film is awfully slow, even for its time. It doesn't really waste time, but there's just a lot of story to get through. Everything about this film just amazed me, it must have been a mammoth undertaking to write, design, create, film, and edit, and while I respect all of that, I feel it might have been better to somehow streamline the story a bit. As it is, this probably would have felt like the equivalent of a modern 3 hour movie, with all the pros and cons that come along with that.

This version of Phantom of the Opera is something like going to the opera itself. It's a long ordeal, but the high quality of music, costumes, makeup, set design, and acting, plus the sheer amount of story, more than compensate for it. If you can make it to the end, you're guaranteed to have a good time.

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