Thursday, October 11, 2012

LET'S GET HAMMER'D: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera
Director: Terence Fisher
Year 1962
The Phantom of the Opera is an excellent Hammer Film Productions adaption of the famous Gaston Leroux novel by the same name. Set in a number of elaborately gothic locations and centered on an ornate opera house, the movie boasts a lucid atmosphere that commendably captures Leroux’s writings, while ate the same time, the production stakes claim to a few stylistic choices of its own. High on production value and ambience, this horror entry blends the famous Hammer style with the conventions of the legendary story of The Phantom of the Opera to make a cinematic spectacle that any genre lover should appreciate.
The film follows the haunting occurrences at a London opera house by an illusive specter who seems determined to halt production on the theater’s next play. With a determined director named Harry Hunter and a ruthless producer named Lord Ambrose d’Arcy, the opera pushes forward through the sabotage, but it isn’t until the lead actress of the play, Christine Charles, is kidnapped that people start to question if the Phantom of the Opera is indeed a ghost, or a jaded individual with other motives in mind. Driven by his love for Ms. Charles and resolute in keeping the opera afloat, Harry sets off on a quest to track down the Phantom of the Opera, but what he finds is a storied past that flips his perception of the play he is directing and the producer behind it.

Edward de Souza plays the role of Harry Hunter, the director with a heart of gold and an attitude to match. As the hero of the piece, Edward is tasked with the larger than life obstacle of getting the audience to support him every inch of the way and Edward does that commendably. With a sharp wit and a charismatic demeanor, Edward lives it up as the central actor of the production. Pairing with him is the lovely Heather Sears playing the role of Christine Charles. Christine is a shy and timid character who slowly blossoms as the film moves along. When we first see her she is auditioning for a part in the play and in these moments she is a bit restrained and apprehensive about her future at the opera house, but after she gets the part and becomes more confident we start to see a more outgoing sort of character that still holds on to that delicate aspect that made her so endearing. Sears is perfect in the role and her performance is heartfelt and somber.
On the other side of the coin we have Michael Gough taking on the role of Lord Ambrose d’Arcy, the biggest asshole in the world. Gough is in top form, portraying the spineless dirt-bag to the letter and his venomous nature and heartless attitude is exceptionally devilish. It’s hard to believe that this actor would later in life play the sweet role of Alfred in Tim Burton’s Batman, but I guess that is a testament to his quality as an actor. Opposing Gough’s Lord Ambrose d’Arcy is Herbert Lom in the role of The Phantom. Lom is one of those classic actors who often gets lost in the shuffle and passing of time, doomed to be forgotten by the majority of the movie watching public, but the man has garnered quiet an impressive career throughout the years. From his work on Spartacus, to Mysterious Island, to Bang! Bang! You’re Dead!, to Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, to Mark of the Devil, to Murders in the Rue Morgue, to Asylum, to The Dead Zone, to King Solomon’s Mines, the guy is a walking talking genre mastermind. Sadly he passed away this year, but his legend will not be forgotten by this reviewer and by the huge following of cult fans that have followed his work. His role in The Phantom of the Opera was definitely one of his best, and his portrayal of the haunted composer is one of my personal favorites.

As this is a Hammer film, the production value of this movie is of the highest of qualities. The sets are lavish, the locations are gothic, and the overall feel of the film is abundantly classy. There is also a great deal of variety to the locations of the movie. We’re given numerous glimpses of the expansive opera house, both in the concert hall and in the behind the scenes locations. From the dressing rooms and lobbies, to the dark and dank underbelly of the opera house’s underground tunnels, the film spares no expense in giving us a plethora of interesting locales for the story to take place in. I especially enjoyed The Phantom’s cavernous lair, as it really spoke for the scope of the production.
The scale of the film can also be seen in the time frame in which the narrative takes place. We are given a large breadth of history in both the origin story of The Phantom and how he came to be and also with the sordid involvement of a certain opera producer and the ramifications that come about from his one heinous act. I loved the scale of the story and I felt that it added to the epic nature of the production. This is not uncommon for a Hammer film to do, because it seems to be a tradition for the production company to tell larger than life tales, giving us all the aspects and storied facts. I loved the thorough approach to this famous story and I personally feel that this is the most accomplished imagining of Gaston Leroux’s novel to date. All in all, The Phantom of the Opera is a Hammer produced entry that really gives respect to the source material in that it fleshes out its characters and allows us to appreciate the scope and heart of this most heralded tale.

The Phantom of the Opera is a sorely underrated Hammer effort that tells a compelling story about one man’s horrifying transformation into a monster and his agonizing struggle to reclaim himself and everything he lost. Terence Fisher knocks another one out of the park with this entry and his expert eye can be seen throughout this entire production. With a cast of highly capable actors it isn’t hard to guess that this film is extremely entertaining and surprisingly fresh for being a retelling of a classic novel.
Surrounded in that distinct style that only Hammer can bring, the film is lavishly depicted and classically portrayed. Every inch of the frame is coated in that haunting atmosphere that seems to infect every Hammer produced movie. With its gothic locations, both above and below ground, the moments in this film are just so surreal and astounding that you have to respect the artistry on display. When tackling this film, I wasn’t to optimistic on being blown away by the story, but the fairytale quality that the movie omits is quite intoxicating and especially inviting. You’ll find yourself being swept up in the mystery and hopefully my review will lead some of you to take on the film for yourself. It really is a special interpretation of the classic story and if anything else, you really can’t go wrong with a Hammer film. Check it out! The Phantom of the Opera is…..

This dude loves to just hang around the set.

Just look at how Lord Ambrose d'Arcy sits. What an asshole!

Watch out! Rat Boy will stick ya!

Christine doesn't appreciate it when you pass gas while on a hansome cab ride.

Get down from there Rat Boy!

Don't even think about it Rat Boy... you little perv.

Any requests?

Pull my Phantom finger.

Pull my finger or your ass is FIRED!

Talk about the recital from hell.

What a PRICK!

Take off that fake mustache you moron.

We don't need no water let the mother fucker burn!

So I kidnapped your girlfriend... big whoop.

You've got something on your face.

Watch as Lord Ambrose shits his pants.

Much love from my Phantom homie.


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