The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Director: Rupert Julian
In 1922, Carl Laemmle, President of Universal Pictures, was on vacation in France when he met legendary French writer Gaston Leroux working in the French cinema industry. Leroux gave Laemmle a copy of his novel, The Phantom of the Opera, which Laemmle quickly read and then immediately offered to buy the film rights. Although it is an important film in the history of cinema, The Phantom of the Opera is not a particularly stellar movie. It is redeemed only by a few scenes employing the use of unique shadow effects, and, of course, the famous terrifying unmasking scene of the Phantom, played by Lon Chaney. The scene alone makes the movie worth watching.
Perhaps appropriately, the production of this film was a complete disaster from the start –Director Rupert Julian was on bad terms with much of the cast, and Lon Chaney (who played the Phantom) demanded to create his own frightening make-up. The first cut of the film was previewed in Los Angeles and was swiftly met with poor reviews, and thus Julian was instructed to re-shoot much of the film. Following this episode, he promptly walked out on the project. It was then taken up by a pair of directors who tried to re-shoot and edit the film in order to change it into a romantic comedy, but this version was booed out of theaters, and finally a nine reel edit was attempted and failed. The sound-stage built for the film was left standing, reused by other projects until 2014 when it was demolished. It was stage 28 at Universal Studios.
The Phantom of the Opera, stays true to the book for the most part. It tells the tale of a recently sold Opera House in France which is plagued by a phantom who wishes to control the stage performances. When things do not go according to plan, strange events begin to occur. Eventually, the Phantom kidnaps one of the main actresses and men chase him through the catacombs of the Opera House –into a series of torturous devices– until they are nearly killed and the Phantom is hunted down by a mob only to thrown into the Seine where he drowns.