Yes, musical theater fans, it’s time for me to be That Guy: the one who reminds you your favorite play began life as a silent horror movie that continues to define its genre. Which was itself an adaption of a 1909 novel, originally serialized in the French daily newspaper Le Gaulois. Its author, Gaston Leroux, was one of those law students who said, “Fuck the law, I want Meat,” and became a journalist, with a side racket reviewing operas. Inspired by this, and Edgar Allen Poe (like so many French writers of his time) Leroux eventually gave up his journalist gig for the looked-profitable-at-the-time job of writing detective fiction (starring his own Author-Insert Fantasy detective, Joseph Rouletabille) and stories that combined “the fantastic with the real,” as one of the first title cards of this film puts it.
The Phantom of the Opera is the most famous thing to escape Leroux’s head and if you ask a film buff why they’ll point to Lon Chaney Sr. and say, “Feast your eyes and soul on his exquisite make-up job! It’s so damn ugly even the cameraman lost focus for a second.” Together with the high praise he’d already earned for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this film pushed Chaney’s star into the upper firmament because here, as there, he did his own make-up, like a man. A “Man of a Thousand Faces,” in fact – the moniker by which most fans know him today, whether they’ve seen this film or not. Continue reading The Phantom of the Opera (1925)