I'm really psyched that this movie is finally being released on DVD. I first saw it when I was 13 and visiting my sister in San Francisco. She had rented it because she was planning to take me to see it later that week.
This movie starts out in modern (1989) New York. Theater student Christine Day (Jill Schoelen) meets her friend Meg (Molly Shannon) at the library because she's found a 'new' music piece that is sure to win Christine the lead in a musical she's auditioning for. As Christine reads the music, it starts to bleed, an omen of what's to happen. At the audition the next day, just as she finishes the piece, a sand bag falls, nearly hitting her, and crashing into a mirror behind her. Suddenly, she is transported back into 19th century England, where she is an understudy to the London Opera's star Diva, Carlotta, who is jealous of Christine's talent. She also doesn't remember being from the future. Christine remains unphased by Carlotta and the fallen sand bag (which also happened in this time period). She is anxious to meet her music coach, the mysterious "Angel of Music" (Robert Englund) that she believes was sent by her father. The "Angel" is really Erik Dessler, a disfigured playwrite who sold his soul to the devil, Faust style. He has fallen in love with her, and is very protective of her. He begins to kill anyone who is in the way of Christine's career. First, he kills Joseph, a stage hand who dropped the sand bag that nearly killed Christine. Then there is the opera critic who gives her a bad review because the owner of the Opera has bribed him. His next victim is Carlotta, during the masquerade ball. Finally, Christine and her fiance Raoul get wise to the fact that her "Angel" is really a psycho, and take the police to the catacombs under the opera house to search for and arrest The Phantom. This culminates in a scene in which Christine "kills" the phantom by trying to destroy his music, and then "disappears" herself, only to find herself back in the present, thinkintg the whole thing a nightmare induced by the fallen sand bag. She is given the lead roll by the producer himself, who invites her out to dinner. When they stop at his apartment, the producer goes to "change", leaving Christine alone. The producer realizes that his face is falling apart and he needs a new one. Christine sees his studio and goes to see what he is working on. The music that comes from the computer turns out to be a completed version of The Phantom's opera, Don Juan Triumphant! When her reappears, all pretenses are dropped. Erik had returned for Christine, as she had promissed (in her past life) to be his bride. In horror, she rips his face off, and takes all his music. On the street, she rips is all up and throws it into the gutter, where she can hear The Phantom screaming in agony, and we think that he is finally dead.
The most haunting image in this film is probably the final scene, just after Christine has destroyed The Phantom's music. As she's walking down an alley past a violinist, he starts to play "Don Juan Triumphant", and we're left to wonder if the Phantom is really dead, and if Christine is to be haunted for all time by him.
This is a fantastic movie. It's one of the few horror films, made after the black-and-white days, that has ever succeeded in actually scaring me. It's a definate must-see for any "Phantom" fans. It's also probably the only film to portray The Phantom exclusively as a villan. Robert Englund is amazing as the Phantom, both as a cowering musician and then as a menacing murderer.
I give this movie 5 stars.