The Phantom Of The Opera is a tale that has been told many times, but in recent years, the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version, both on stage and on screen, has overshadowed some of the earlier telling of the tale. This version is the Hammer Studios version, and like many of their films, it deviates from the source material, but still provides a great little story.
The film begins on the opening night of Lord Ambrose d’Arcy’s (Michael Gough) new opera ‘Joan Of Arc’. For weeks the Opera House, in the lead-up to the production, has been plagued by small accidents. Some people even believe that the theatre is haunted. The bad luck continues during the performance when one of the stage hands, hanging from a rope around his neck, tears one of the backdrops and swings out into the middle of the stage, dead.
The leading lady in the production quits and the season of ‘Joan Of Arc’ is postponed until a replacement can be found. The production Manager, Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza) finds a girl named Christine Charles (Heather Sears) who has the voice to fit the bill. But Lord d’Arcy is a lecherous swine and tries to take advantage of the rising starlets desire to perform. She rebuffs his advances and d’Arcy fires her from the production and seeks a new starlet to sing the lead.
Hunter tries to reason with d’Arcy, but for his trouble he gets fired too. Afterwards he goes to Christine’s lodgings to tell her the bad news. At the lodgings, however, the landlady tells him of one of her previous tenants, Professor Petrie who was a composer who died in a fire many years previously.
Hunter does some investigating into the death of Professor Petrie. It seems that Petrie wrote a great deal of music, but broke, went to Lord d’Arcy to see if he could get his work published. Lord d’Arcy agreed to buy and publish the work, but instead stole it, and put his name to the music. In a fit of rage, Petrie went to the printers that were running off ‘d’Arcy’s ill gotten sheet music and threw all the printed sheets into the furnace. One sheet fell out of the furnace and onto the floor starting a small fire. Petrie picked up a bucket filled with acid, thinking that it is water. He then threw the acid on the fire, and it splashed back in his face. Blinded in one eye and in tremendous pain, Petrie ran from the printers, out into the street, and then threw him self into the river – never to be seen again.
The Phantom Of The Opera is not a true horror film. Their are a couple of violent scenes, but they aren’t too shocking. Like the best of Hammer, what this film has got going for it, is a sense of atmosphere, and a great ensemble of character actors. Lom is good, but considering he spends most of the movie hidden behind a mask it is his voice that carries his performance. Michael Gough though is brilliantly evil as Lord Ambrose d’Arcy, and he dominates every scene he is in. All in all, The Phantom Of The Opera is an entertaining tale in true Hammer style, of good versus evil, corruption and revenge.