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So I Finally Saw.. The Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Written by Zechs on Wednesday, October 14 2009 and posted in Reviews

A new review feature, with a current Halloween theme starting with Zechs listening to the angel of music of the 1989 adaptation starring Robert Englund.



After some people talking me into it, I've decided to create a column for movies I never ever have the chance to ever see, but finally have. They could be newer releases or ones released years ago. The fact is I never saw them, and only now have watched them. So my first review will be based on my latest movie I watched, the Phantom of the Opera AKA the 1989 adaptation.


If there's one franchise in the horror business I have a secret admiration besides Universal horror, it is the Phantom of the Opera. I'm quite a fan of them all even though I only have two versions if my possession (the Andrew Lloyd Webber movie adaptation and the Chaney version). Though I've seen all versions of them (even Brian DePalma's somewhat adaptation the Phantom of the Paradise and the horrific misfire of Dario Argento) save for but one, the 1989 version starring Robert Englund.

Why haven't I given the late 80s version a view? Well, I have to admit I've had chances in the past when I was a kid, but honestly, it's probably due to Robert Englund who scared the living hell out of me and swore off watching modern horror for a time. I mean what kid wasn't scared by Freddy Kruger and he's playing another psycho bastard? Well, I'm de-pussfied now, and after a surprise finding the DVD to this in the Wal-Mart Five Dollar DVD pit I decided to buy it and give whatever review it justly deserves.

The plot always the core of any Phantom story, is he lusts after Christine and encounters a heck of a lot of trouble due to it. The twist for this version it starts out in "modern" New York and a modern Christine who after singing "Don Juan Triumphant" written by one Erik Destler is transported or is given view to a previous reincarnation of herself. I'm guessing the later since she's never mentions any modern memories when she's in the past.

For the other big difference between previous and after "Phantom" films is that is Phantom himself. The key being his mask persay isn't the usual kind we're used too. Instead his mask is well, more his actual face. The same can be said of his behavior is more being of supernatural. He'll do things are typical of a slasher doing the be in one place and BAM he's somehow got one-step ahead of his victim. Though given he does get his powers via devil deal I can see how he has this power to him.

In addition, no surprise the film is gory one you cannot help but expect from an 80s horror film. So are the kills good? I have to say yes. The usual characters are killed, but now they're in the classic horror style. You sin, you die. Even more this movie actually surprised me in some of the victims. This film really does play with the slasher rules perfectly. As always given with horror moments there are some unintentionally humorous moments.

The other thing this movie does remarkably is that it's an actually good adaptation of the Phantom. There are some elements it show's that haven't been seen in years remarkably in other Phantom adaptations (namely the graveyard scene and the Masque of Red Death). Other scenes are perfectly translated and the switch from the Paris Opera house to British didn't bother me at all. The only thing really I felt sorely missing was a chandelier scene and honestly I was expecting a certain character to meet her end via it. Even though said character's death was richly deserved, I wonder if they didn't have a budget for such a scene or they just wanted to avoid the cliché and go for other things that haven't been done in awhile in "Phantom" films. Still those thinking this would be a lose adaptation of the novel will find themselves (like myself) surprised just how faithful it is than the more famous adaptations. fiddle.jpg

I must give big props to the director of this film, Dwight H. Little. He's had a career all over the place, but to me he directed one of my favorite modern horror film and sequel, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Much like his previous filmt, this one's atmosphere quite remarkable, both in modern and past settings. Little really knows how to craft scenery and it's a damn shame he hasn't had more horror films to his credit. The scene that stands out to me is the graveyard scene, which just is so beautiful to watch. That is gloriously matched with the Phantom being stalked by some murderous thieves with of course the roles quickly reversed. Each is just perfect in lightening and mood.

So what about the performances? As always, Robert Englund is a marvel to watch in the film. His Phantom
just oozes presence, which is always a thing needed for the role. Not to mention as with Kruger, the Phantom does get some really truly great lines in this. Every scene he's involved in is truly a joy truly to watch. Thus, I have to say Englund really has become one of my favorite Phantoms not on par with Chaney but probably my favorite speaking of the Phantoms. But then again I shouldn't find it all that surprising because much like Chaney and in a way Claude Rains before him they where all classic horror actors (though really Rains only had said Phantom film, The Wolf Man, and the Invisible Man to his horror credit. Still, when you got three marvelous horror films like those why need any more?). Though with Englund he brings so much to this role you can tell he had a kick with the role putting his own unique stamp on the character. The reason would be that Englund's Phantom is charming sympatric one minute and the next so utterly terrifying. For me I truly love this character so much more than Freddy. Fans of Englund will probably truly rank this probably third or even second of performances in his career. His role in this is that good.

Then there's Jill Schoelen, the actor who plays Christine. Though her modern scenes didn't entice me it's more when she's in the past she's good. No matter, she gives a very fragile performance of a woman obviously trying to cope with this newfound fame, ridicule, and she has a supernatural stalker. She fills the role necessary and doesn't annoy or wish unholy death upon her as other characters of horror or other Christine's (Jane Seymour's Christine I'm talking about you).

A little note to this all it kinda threw me for a loop to find frigging Molly Shannon and Bill Nighy both in this movie. I wasn't really expecting to see any actual faces I know so it was weird to see a comedian of Molly's talent and Bill "Davey Jones" Nighy who the later brings much as usual to a role of the theater owner that would probably be one dimensional in any other hands. As for Shannon, it's only a brief single scene she's in, that just seems weird to someone who’s usually in comedies, not horror. Then again, this was 1989, so given both careers of each actor hadn't gotten off the ground I can see why.


Of course, what Phantom of the Opera adaptation would be complete without the music. I'm happy to say that the music in this just astounded me. The music here is almost reminiscing to me of Danny Elfman. There's just an Elfman-like beat during the Graveyard scene and the operatic music is just spectacular. I have to admit I'll probably now be searching for the soundtrack to this, the score and music to this film is quite good. Other horror fans might want to check this out *cough* Greg, Eltopo, Thunderstorm, and Arion. *cough*.

However, with so many positives there are quite some negatives mainly one huge one, which is alas the climax to this film. Just when you think you're getting to one, instead, we're back in the modern times and have to wait for the real climax to begin which is a bit of a disappointment after so much fun and hijinks abound in the past. Honestly, had the film ended with Christine just waking up and cut everything happening in the next ten or more minutes and just skip to the end this would have been a perfect film. Sure, it would have denied the mask removal scene, which is typical in a Phantom scene, but honestly, I think the film would have just worked better and kept up with the Phantom's mysterious presence. The same can be said for the Phantom's "final" exit. The way he meets his end is just so ludicrously stupid. It was almost like the writer realized he created such an invincible Phantom and decided, "Eh.. I'll let the sequel find a way to do him in and finish him off crappily here."

Still, even with the lackluster climax the actual end is very promising and as stated it was almost as if the people behind this where thinking sequel. But given it's timing in the late 80s the slasher films where meeting it's end and that year in particular was just full of horror (if I remember right a Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare all where released that year as well). Even more this came out the same time the more famous Andrew Lloyd Weber musical did. Plus, as you saw with the movie poster above the company that made this film marketed it Englund's Phantom as if he where Freddy, which is stupid the two roles are vastly different. Though this sort of marketing tool is not something not new in the business of selling horror. So alas this movie did horribly at the box office. Though curiously I wonder what the sequel would look like. Regardless, this is a VERY underrated horror and The Phantom of the Opera film. Englund, the cast, the direction, and of course the beautiful music lift this film just enough of it's hideous finale.


4 out of 5

*Stay tuned for my next review when I'll look at the Horror of Dracula staring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Oh yes, I'm going for a horror themed month of films I always wished to see but never did. After that, I'll be reviewing the Brides of Dracula and probably repost an extended review of my thoughts on Punisher: War Zone.



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About the Author - Zechs

Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Moment of the Week, and Durnkin Reveewz. He's also the official whuppin boy at the Outhouse. So he'll get stuck seeing stuff that no mere mortal should ever see. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. He's also brutally honest. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.


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