Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Phantom of the Opera 1943

Monsieur, you are skeptical, but I don't like ghosts. I'm a busy man.
-Vereheres from Phantom of the Opera 1943.

Happy New Year Everyone!!  For Christmas this year my wonderful Hubby bought me the Universal Classic Monsters Blu-Ray collection.  It is as awesome as you have heard.  The only film I had not seen in the collection was Phantom of the Opera from 1943 starring on of my favorites: Claude Rains.

I love this guy.  Isn't he perfect?  Directed by Arthur Lubin, Phantom was filmed on the same Paris Opera House set built for Chaney's 1925 version.  A set that still stands today!  Check out more info here.

Rains stars as Erique Claudin, a Violinist whose career is cut short due to Arthritis.  A bit of an "Odd Duck," Claudin has been "sponsoring" a young singer by the name of Christine (Susanna Foster).  Christine has no idea that Claudin is her benefactor.  She is a rising star in the Paris Opera world and she has two men fighting over her: Nelson Eddy as Baritone Anatole Garron, and Edgar Barrier as Raoul, a Detective.  Anatole and Raoul act as a sort of comic relief in this otherwise tragic tale.

After losing his job, Claudin attempts to sell his music to continue Christine's education.  A horrific accident involving a vat of acid sends Claudin on a killing spree and then into hiding under the Paris Opera House.

Rain's Phantom is a sympathetic character yet his is very brutal.  Quite a few people lose their lives due to his obsession.  Young Christine, once kidnapped by the Phantom, reacts with sympathy rather than horror.  Perhaps because she once knew him as the kind, odd Claudin rather than the monster he has become.

The Big Reveal.  They obviously toned down the make-up here.  Part of the reason is because Rain's didn't want to wear the make-up (revealed in the documentary.)  Part of the reason is, I am sure, that you can't beat this:

Also revealed in the documentary is that Claudin and Christine were related: they were father and daughter.  The studio wisely dropped this story line due to the incestuous implications.  

This version of the Phantom is in glorious technicolor and the Opera House set has never looked more beautiful.  If you are a fan of Opera, you will enjoy this film: there is a whole lot of singing.  I mean A LOT.  But that was OK with me.  I am now a huge Nelson Eddy fan.  Who knew?  As for Rains, he is wonderful and sympathetic and very, very mad.  The version lacks the terror of the 1925 version, but it has it's own charms.

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