This spectacular retelling of Gaston Leroux's immortal horror tale stars Claude Rains as the masked phantom of the Paris opera house - a crazed composer who schemes to make a beautiful young soprano (Susanna Foster) the st... more »ar of the opera company and wreak revenge on those who stole his music. Nelson Eddy, the heroic baritone, tries to win the affections of Foster as he tracks down the disfigured "monster" who has begun murdering those who resist his mad demands. This lavish production remains a masterpiece not only of the genre, but for all time.« less
"Gaston Leroux?s penny-dreadful novel was hardly the stuff of great literature, but it did manage to tap into the public consciousness with its gas-light-gothic tale of a beautiful singer menaced by a horrific yet seductive serial killer lurking in the forgotten basement labyrinths of the Paris Opera. Lon Chaney?s silent classic kept the basic elements of the novel intact?-and proved one of the great box office hits of its day, a fact that prompted Universal Studios to contemplate a remake throughout most of the 1930s. Although several proposals were considered (including one intended to feature Deanna Durbin, who despised the idea and derailed the project with a flat refusal), it wasn?t until 1943 that a remake reached the screen. And when it did, it was an eye-popping Technicolor extravaganza, all talking, all singing, and dancing. The Phantom had gone musical.In many respects this version of PHANTOM anticipates the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, for whereas the Chaney version presented the Phantom as a truly sinister entity, this adaptation presents the character as one more sinned against than sinning?an idea that would color almost every later adaptation, and Webber?s most particularly so. But it also shifts the focus of the story away from the title character, who is here really more of a supporting character than anything else. The focus is on Paris Opera star Christine Dae, here played by Susanna Foster. In this version Christine is not only adored by the Phantom; she is also romantically pursued by two suitors who put aside their differences to protect her.Directed by Universal workhorse Arthur Lubin, this version is truly eye-popping in the way that only a 1940s Technicolor spectacular could be: the color is intensely brilliant, and Lubin makes the most of it by focusing most of his camera-time on the stage of the Paris Opera itself and splashing one operatic performance after another throughout the film. But in terms of actual story interest, the film is only so-so. Susanna Foster had a great singing voice, but she did not have a memorable screen presence, and while the supporting cast (which includes Nelson Eddy, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carrillo, and Jane Farrar) is solid enough they lack excitement. And the pace of the film often seems a bit slow, sometimes to the point of clunkiness.The saving grace of the film?-in addition to the aforementioned photography, which won an Oscar-?is Claude Rains. A great artist, Rains did not make the mistake of copying Chaney, and although the script robs the Phantom of his most fearsome aspects, Rains fills the role with subtle menace that is wonderful to behold, completely transcending the film?s slow pace, the lackluster script, and "sanitized for your protection" tone so typical of Universal Studios in the 1940s.Like most "Universal Horror" DVD packages, this one is superior. The centerpiece of the bonus material is a very nice documentary, "The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked," which details the origins of the novel and the numerous film adaptations of it?and which is actually quite a bit more interesting than the 1943 film itself. There is also a nice, if somewhat perfunctory, audio commentary track by historian Scott McQueen, trailers, stills, and the like. But when everything is said and done, it?s the film that counts?and unless you?re a diehard Phantom fan you?re likely to be unimpressed."
Glorious Technicolor adaptation of the Leroux novel
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 02/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1943 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is simply stunning. As other viewers have noted, this version is more colourful musical than bloodcurdling horror (and more in tune with Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical than the Lon Chaney silent).
Claude Rains plays the Phantom. In this version the Phantom is a violinist in the opera's orchestra, trying to get his own music published. Because of arthritis in one of his hands, he gets fired from the orchestra and left virtually destitute. A case of jumping to the wrong conclusion leads him to be severely scarred by acid, and he retreats to the cool and dark of the sewers for refuge.
Susanna Foster plays Christine DuBois, a young singer in the opera chorus, who graduates to the lead roles when the resident diva is murdered by the Phantom. Nelson Eddy plays Anatole, the resident lead baritone who is in love with Christine.
The Technicolor photography is lush and vibrant, superbly reproduced for this DVD. Susanna Foster (and her amazing voice which roams several octaves) is perfectly showcased in the well-executed opera scenes. Also starring Edgar Barrier, J. Edward Bromberg and Jane Farrar.
Followed by THE CLIMAX (which featured Susanna Foster being menaced by Boris Karloff)."
A Beautiful Film
Byron Kolln | 03/26/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw the 1943 version of "The Phantom of the Opera" before I read the book and (last) saw the 1925 version. I have to admit that it was not like the book at all, but the Lon Chaney version was a little. Claude Rains was very convincing as the tormented and lovesick Phantom, and was always more interesting than Lon Chaney. But Claude Rains was not given very much screen time, except near the beginning and end of the film. The sets were fabulous. Nelson Eddy and Edgar Barrier were almost constantly trying to win over Christine, and even though these scenes were funny, I've noticed that they can very easily become distractions that seem designed only to de-emphasize Claude Rains, which only hurts the film. Susanna Foster and Nelson Eddy sang a lot, and while these numbers were very nice and a joy to listen to, they were the only time Nelson Eddy really got a chance to shine, which is unfortunate. However, Susanna Foster fared well throughout the entire film. I would not recommend this film to anyone who doesn't like opera, or to anyone who wants to see a lot of the Phantom."
Nelson Eddy revives his opera career
Christine Souter | millbrae, ca. United States | 07/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a quaint idea to cast an actual opera singer, Nelson Eddy, as the baritone. His whole film career at MGM never allowed him to display his talent so beautifully. Claude Raines was very effective as the Phantom, and Susanna Foster, in her first film role was a beautiful and talented Christine. The opera scenes were well staged, and for a 1943 film at Universal, it was quite lavish. The underground lair of the Phantom was chilling--I do believe I read that part of the set was where the Lon Chaney version was filmed. A bit of trivia--this is the only film in which Mr. Eddy did not win the leading lady at the end. Hopefully this convinced him to never dye his blond hair black again and grow a mustache:)"
Technicolor, Glorius Technicolor
Richard A. Hunter | 10/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Years ago I taped "The Phantom of the Opera" off an old TV Channel. Not to long before I bought my new copy I hauled out the old tape and watched the film. All the colors had shifted and the copy looked like it was old and tired out. I bought the new print when I saw it was available and had been cleaned up and beautifully restored. I got goose bumps when I saw this new copy.All the life was back and restored. Susanna Foster looked beautiful as the Opera Saprano and Nelson Eddy was in Fine Voice. Not to mention the gorgeous sets in vivid color. I've always said there is nothing like Technicolor. No other process even comes close. The Music is beautiful.Claude Rains makes a fine Phantom. The Screenplay is very good also. Warner Bros. is doing a fine job restoring these old films. I had to give this one 5 stars. I know this is a Horror Flick but it's a beautifully done Horror Flick."