Critics rank this 1925 feature by Rupert Julian well below Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but Lon Chaney’s performance as the hideous organist prowling the sewers beneath the Paris Opera is still a cornerstone of gothic horror. Chaney based his death’s-head make-up on a description from the Gaston Leroux source novel, though as film historian David J. Skal has observed, viewers at the time would have been more immediately reminded of the disfigured men who came home from World War I. Aside from the famous unmasking scene, the movie’s most striking moment is the two-strip Technicolor sequence in which the Phantom, clad in the scarlet robes of Poe’s Red Death, terrorizes a masked ball; the image seals Chaney’s reputation as the grim reaper of the Jazz Age.
Phantom of the Opera
NR • 1 hour 19 min • 2012