on October 1, 2003
Not to repeat another reviewer's long but precise review, I want to add my recommendation of this most recent version of what is arguably Chaney's best work. What many fans don't realize is that the great unmasking scene was also filmed in color and is now missing. Stills of the original 1925 B&W unmasking show it from a slighly different angle. Chaney rejected the color version because the hot lights made the adhesive between his forehead and headpiece start to separate. But, ironically, it is the B&W version of the color footage that survives in both the 1925 and 1929 editions. It is a pity that the missing footage wasn't found fot his restoration. Maybe someday we'll get the version with sound dubbed in (except for Chaney who had died as well as no longer being with Universal). This set could have given us more of that while using the beautifully clear 1929 print. All in all, an excellent effort. If you have the past ones, this is better just as Kino's recent "Metropolis" is the one to have. Now it's time to settle back and enjoy the restored "The Man Who Laughs."
on September 30, 2003
Although marred by static direction and stilted acting, the 1925 silent film THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is known primarily for the memorable contribution by Lon Chaney as an actor and makeup artist. His moving portrayal of the disfigured escaped convict who haunts Paris Opera House is perhaps the sole reason to watch this film. And his talent as a makeup artist helped create one of the most indelible images in film history: the skull-like head of the phantom that conveys sadness, anger, and horror at the same time. This Region-1-only 2-disc DVD set from The Milestone Company includes two versions of this classic film: the 1925 version that was premiered in New York, and the 1929 re-edited silent version that is most often seen today. The DVD also contains excellent supplements that give us a good overview of the film's rather remarkable history.
The rarely seen 1925 New York premiere version included on this DVD is untinted, runs 107 minutes, and was transferred from the only surviving 16mm reduction print. Its video quality is understandably poor; sharpness and clarity are never satisfactory, and blemishes abound. There are some notable differences between this version and the shorter, 93-min, 1929 re-edited version. In the 1925 version, actors are introduced via their own title cards. There is no "Carlotta's mother" character. Carlotta is played by Virginia Pearson in both the opera and the dramatic scenes. The chandelier sequence is edited more competently and thus played out a little more effectively. There are more scenes in Christine's dressing room, so adequate suspense is built up before she meets the phantom. There is also one crucial scene in a garden that explains why Christine is so enamored to the mysterious voice she hears. In my opinion, the 1925 version is the superior version; it seems more complete and satisfying narratively than the edited 1929 version.
The 1929 edited silent version included on this DVD was transferred from a restored, re-tinted print made by the renowned film restoration company Photoplay Productions. This is the best-looking version of PHANTOM to date. It also looks much sharper and cleaner than the 1997 Image DVD. Both DVDs offer the speed-corrected 1929 version, but the '97 Image DVD opens with a shot of a man holding a lantern walking past the camera, while the Milestone DVD, curiously, omits this so-called "lantern man" shot and opens at the opera house. On both DVDs, the "Bal Masque" scene is shown in two-strip Technicolor, with the color on the Milestone disc looking a little more realistic. Also, in order to duplicate the original film as much as possible, some of the color scenes on the Milestone disc were actually digitally colored (such as the phantom's red cape at the roof of the opera house), because there is no existing color footage for them. On the '97 Image DVD, no digital coloring was used.
There was a "talkie" version of PHANTOM made in 1929, but unfortunately the print of that version was lost. The dialogs and sound effects recorded for that version, however, survived. To give the viewer a taste of the sound version, the Milestone DVD offers something interesting to accompany the 1929 silent version: a soundtrack composed of fragments of existing recordings of the sound version pieced together to fit the silent version as much as possible. The result is still far from being a "talkie" track. It has plenty of sound effects and spoken dialogs, but it has almost no synchronized talking. Inter-titles are still present (because this is still the silent version). There is, however, one opera sequence where the singing of actress Mary Fabian (who did her own singing) is perfectly synchronized with the picture, which is a wonder to watch. The DVD also includes audio-only supplements of recorded dialogs, which give us further glimpses of the talkie version -- and of its rather incompetent voice acting.
Also accompanying the 1929 version is a superb audio commentary by PHANTOM expert Scott MacQueen. He provides a wealth of information about the production history, the backgrounds of the cast and crew, the various versions of the film, the use of color, and the use of sound. He deplores the incompetence of director Rupert Julian, and emphasizes that the true auteurs of the film were Chaney and set designer Ben Carré. He points out that contemporary reviews indicate that the 1925 version contains Technicolor sequences in not only the Bal Masque scene, but also the opera sequences and the auditorium scenes (the extensive use of color must have been quite a spectacle for a silent film back then). He recounts in great details (while speaking at a pretty fast pace) how the various versions of PHANTOM survived over the years -- the existing 1925 version originated from the so-called "Show-at-home" 16mm versions which Universal made for private collectors in the 1930s, while the surviving 1929 version was obtained by a Jim Card at Universal in the 1950s, and the Technicolor sequences was obtained from a 1930 dye transfer copy by restorationist David Shepherd.
To add even more value to an already superb package, the Milestone DVD also includes still-frame reconstructions of the Los Angeles and San Francisco premiere versions of PHANTOM. These were the very first public showings of the film. The Los Angeles version ended not with a chase scene as in later versions, but with the phantom dying alone at his piano.
on September 26, 2003
The IMAGE entertainment restoration of the 1929 "Phantom of the Opera" starring Lon Chaney is a bit hit. The two-disk set is definately the definitive choice to own by all serious collectors. The clarity is better than any version I've seen to date, and for the first time, the correct running speed has been instituted here. The tradeoff however, is that the motion is somewhat choppy from too few frames. The characters move in proper real-time, and for the first time, you can see naturalistic movement in such scenes as the opening ballet sequence.
True fans need look no further than this two-disk Masterpiece Collection set from IMAGE. This is definately the one to own! The film is tinted and comes in a selection of three seperate sound tracks to choose from: a terrific new orchestrated score, the original sound score from the 30s, and a voice-over commentary track, which is insightful.
The second disk contains the original 1925 film, which few people have ever seen today. The quality is poor, but there are many scenes that are different from the version that we're all familiar with. It's worth watching.
But you cannot beat the restoration of the 1929 version on disk one of this set. It isn't quite the job that KINO put into Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" last year, but is terrific nonetheless. Thank you IMAGE. Great DVD!
on September 22, 2003
... THE ULTIMATE EDITION 2 DISC SET (Image/Milestone): WOW! I remember watching the restored Metropolis and wondered when someone would ever restore Phantom and Nosferatu as beautifully. Well, they're coming close. This isn't quite the restoration job of Metropolis, but damn, it's gotta be the absolute best that's available. As far as the three DVD's reviewed here, this by far is the best in clarity and dare I say, it's a gorgeous restoration worthy of the most jaded film buff's archive (all that's missing is MAGICIMAGE's Filmbook on the film as a companion piece). The film is tinted throughout, with the addition of the Handschiegl color process during the Apollo scene which I'd never seen before being a nice touch. Steve MacQueen's commentary provided some great insight into the movie's background. The optional score from the 1930 sound release was a welcome bonus track, being reedited to fit this "remix" of a film. Thusly, was the best viewing of this movie that I've ever had. The original 1925 version of the film is on disc two and is a bit murky, along the lines of the usual worn out print, but hell, you take what you can get and in this case I'll take it, having never seen THIS version of Phantom before. On my copy, despite the overall clarity of the restored movie ('29), I still noticed those trailing/blurred action lines thingies when a character was moving quickly. It may be a defect in my disc it may not, but everything else in the scenes (and this occured throught), stayed pretty clear, save for the fast movement. Someone told me that was part of the restoration, which I thought odd, but who knows,I don't see it occuring in the other copies. Hmmm. Outside of that, this is quite the package. If you are serious about having this classic in your film library, this is the best bet. Until someone manages to come up with ALL of the versions, New York, LA, SF Reissue etc all together, then this truly has got to be the ULTIMATE EDITION!
on September 21, 2003
I have loved this movie for 20 years or more. It is my second favorite silent film. I cannot explain my astonishment of seeing this beautiful version on DVD. I have at least 2 other versions of this film on DVD and this is hands down the winner. First off, both the original 1925 version is here, plus the 1929 reissue is here as well. The reissue is far superior than all other versions. Almost pristine except for a couple of minor scratches. Even the scene with Mary Philbin in the custom made bedroom in the phantoms lair, which in all other versions looked like it was on the verge of deterioration is fixed up the best it could be here. Now for the audio. The good news is there are some of the original dialogue segments here on the original 1929 sountrack (though none with Lon Chaney) but they sound a little distorted so you have to listen carefully. They are essential however. Also The Bal Masque scene is the best resoration I have ever seen. Chaneys red cape looks fantastic. Too bad they couldn't locate any additional technicolor scenes (there were other scenes filmed that way, but they seem to be lost). The original 1925 version is here and it is complete but it does however not appear in the best of conditions. But better than nothing. Other than just a couple of seconds, there is no additional Chaney scenes. All in all a must have for your DVD collection.
on January 7, 2004
Well, the other reviews have said it - this is a FANTASTIC restoration, and the availability of the 1925 version makes it even better. You get TWO prints of the film for the price of one.
But, the ghosting effect on the restored version is simply awful. Folks, there is not a SINGLE clear frame in the whole film! Every frame is a composite of two films frames, and the whole thing makes the film look very clear but very blurred at the same time.
It's an incredible shame that this wasn't handled correctly. There is NO excuse for a film of this high quality to be spoiled by poor transfer to video. None.
But then, some people will watch this and not notice anything wrong. Your mileage may vary.
The other features on the two-disc set are absolutely worthwhile, and having the choice of soundtracks is fantastic.
So, caveat emptor on this one. There's much to recommend, but a big disappointment as well.
on February 16, 2004
If you wanna live your life you have to live it right don't wanna waste it! you know you gotta live it right it's not a watse of time get up in taste it Let's Get Loud! Let's Get Loud! The Phantom Of The Opera's gonna bring us down. Let's Get Loud.
Come and Watch this on DVD rather than on digital TV you gotta see this! Lon Chaney's gonna make you scream as soon as his new face takes up the screen! Let's Get Loud! Let's Get Loud!The Phantom Of The Opera's gonna bring us down. Let's Get Loud!Come on! Turn on this real quick Norman's gonna make you flip cause he's so sexy! You just can't resist his look cause it's not from a book that's why I love him!! Let's Get Loud! Let's Get Loud! The Phantom Of The Opera's gonna bring us down Let's Get Loud! Let's Get Loud! But this DVD and when you get it tell me what you gonna do! HEY!
This is a 2 disc collection. The films are colour tinted and total run time of the discs is 4 hrs 28 mins. An incredible set.
Disc 1 - 1929 restored version, 2 soundtracks including the original 1930 soundtrack edited to fit this version, commentary by Scott MacQueen, 1925 & 1930 theatrical trailers, stills gallery featuring deleted & missing scenes, bonus audio only feature: selections of dialogue sequences from the 1930 version not found in the restored version
Disc 2 - 1925 original feature version, musical score by Jon Mirsalis, Carla Laemmle Remembers - a video interview with David Skal, Faust opera extract from the 1929 Tiffany sound feature Midstream, bonus audio only feature: interview with cinematographer Charles Van Enger
on September 24, 2003
Image's lavish 2-disc set does justice to Lon Chaney's riveting performance as the "Phantom of the Opera." This has long been one of my favorite films, but felt as if I had only seen it for the first time after watching the 1929 edition included in this set. The print is beautiful, and the commentary by Scott MacQueen is insightful. The technicolor has been added to the "Bal Masque" scene, and there is a gorgeous scene of a red-cloaked Erik poised against an anotherwise blue-tinted background. Plus there are loads of stills, promotional materials, alternate music and soundtracks, as well as the 1925 cut of the film. Absolutely essential for fans of gothic horror.
on April 8, 2004
I assume that just about anyone reading this review is familiar with Chaney's Phantom of the Opera, so I intend to concentrate on the particular aspects of this release rather than on performances and/or story, since such reviews are the ones I personally find most helpful when doing resesarch.
This print is the version of the film prepared for re-release in 1929 (the film was originally released in 1925). The ballet and opera sequences were reshot and the entire film was re-edited; I believe it's shorter than the original release. This print isn't perfect (this is, after all, a VERY old film), but it's in astonishingly good shape, has been gorgeously remastered by David Shepard, and is a pleasure to watch. It has been remastered to its correct running speed of 20 frames/second, so there's none of the hurky-jerky movement that's often found in public domain issues of silents. The film is tinted according to Universal's original specs, and the Bal Masque sequence appears in its original two-strip Technicolor aspect. The digital stereo score, written by Gabriel Thibaudoux, is entirely appropriate to the film, although one wonders what the original score was like.
An informative essay by Chaney scholar Michael F. Blake is included and there are a few nice extras consisting mainly of shots from the production of the film; the re-release trailer is also included, although it lacks music and doesn't appear to have been remastered.
I'm very pleased with this disk. I can't compare it to the two-disk set released by Milestone because I don't own it yet. I seem to recall reading reviews to the effect that one can't fast forward, pause, or reverse the Milestone set (this would drive me insane)--such isn't the case here. Chapters are easily accessible, and the film opens with the "Lantern Man," which I seem to recall reading isn't the case with the Milestone set. There's no evidence of the "ghosting" mentioned in reviews of the Milestone set; in fact, the print is exceptionally clear with only some of the "underground" scenes prior to the unmasking showing serious evidence of age. The film itself is captivating and it bears mentioning that Chaney's performance is poetry in motion--it's impossible not to watch him, even when he appears only in shadow. I can't imagine anyone's being dissatisfied with this disk--its only drawback is its cheesy snap case. Highest recommendation--my hunch is that it hasn't been superceded by the Milestone release.