Day Four: Phantom of the Opera

Happy Halloween Countdown Phantom of the Opera

By 1943, Universal studios had changed hands from the founding Laemmle family and recast itself as Universal International.  The studio’s cycle of classic horror films, which began two decades earlier in the silent era, was coming to a close; its best films gone by.  Can you imagine fright fans of the day anticipating the release of a new Phantom of the Opera film, in color no less?

In the lean war years, it might have seemed that a new, opulent telling of Phantom of the Opera was a sign that the new management at Universal was going to double down on monsters movies.  That turned out to be very wrong, of course.  The glory days of horror at Universal were gone forever.  Instead of a return to form, the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera was a clear sign that the studio who gave us the iconic famous monsters was going to take a new and boring direction.

This is a very different sort of Phantom.  Instead of Lon Chaney’s horrific and imposing Erik, we’re given Claude Rain’s short and middle-aged Erique Claudin, who is less a figure of fear and more like an obsessive stage mommy.  I know. I’m being a little snarky, but only just a little. While it is never fully explained, there are hints that Claudin is Christine’s (Susanna Foster) father, though she is unaware of it.   Claudin haunts the opera house and commits his crimes to further Christine’s career, not out of a twisted,  death-laced romantic obsession but because she is daddy’s little girl.

Phantom of the Opera seemed like watching two movie spliced together.  The first movie is a musical romance featuring a love triangle of Inspector Raoul D’Aubert (Edgar Barrier) and Anatole Garron (Nelson Eddy) vying for Christine’s hand in marriage, though they seem more interested in each other than Christine.  The second movie is a sort of gothic version of Dance Moms.   The films ends with the Phantom destroyed and Christine deciding to marry her career with the Opera, leaving her two suitors to shop for a different beard.  Raoul and Anatole both take her spurning in stride and leapfrog together into the sunset.

 

Starring:
Nelson Eddy
Susanna Foster
Claude Rains
Edgar Barrier

Director
Arthur Lubin

Screenplay:
Samuel Hoffenstein
Eric Taylor
Hans Jacoby

Two of five Vincents

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