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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2004
Over the years, I have just about bought every version of the silent PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. In my opinion, the Milestone version is THE BEST. The elements have been cleaned up and the image is crisp, clear with good contrast for 90% of the film. This two disc set has both the 1929 and hybrid 1925 original. Actually the film is cleaner and better looking in this version than a lot of the official Universal thirties classic that have come out.
It has an excellent commentary by Scott MacQueen and a real treat is hearing the music originally composed for the sound version accompanying the action from original sound elements.
The Technicolor sequences are the nicest I have seen and through proper use of the colorization process, other scenes originally in color, are presented and match the actual color stuff very well.
This version has been made from the initial Photoplay restoration which also includes Carl Davis' original stereo score for those that must have modern stereo for their films, however, I prefer the mood and music of the original '30 soundtrack. There are a plethora of extras, and I don't think it is false hype to say this is the ULTIMATE EDITION of this classic film.
That's my two cents.....
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This blu-ray has three versions of the Phantom of the Opera. It has the original 1925 (114min) version which was copied from a 16mm source, and then two versions of the 1929 reissue with one presented at 24 frames per second(78min) and the other at 20 frames per second(92min). Both of the 1929 films are the same film but run for different lengths because of the variation in the film speeds, however the 24 frames per second film has also been remastered even better than the 20 frames per second film and looks simply amazing, though don't expect all of the scratches and oxidizing markings to be completely removed. This film is lucky to be around at all given the volatile stock which was used for this film and others from this era. The original 1925 film is the roughest looking by far, but also shows the original film in its entirety. The 1929 films were reedited, with other parts refilmed, like a portion of the ballet sequence. The 20 frame per second version also comes with an excellent commentary by Dr. Jon Mirsalis, and an orchestral score by Gabriel Thibaudeau. The 24 frames per second film version comes with Gaylord Carter's organ score or a brand new score by the Alloy Orchestra which is very good, and moody/creepy. The 1929 versions are colour tinted, with the famous "Bal Masque" sequence in Technicolor, and other segments hand colored, which is quite striking and an unexpected surprise. This is an excellent blu-ray which has been wonderfully remastered.
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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.
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on February 23, 2004
This DVD has restored the original 1925 and 1929 versions of Lon Chaney's incredible performance in "Phantom Of The Opera". It's got better sound quality and picture, uses sequences from the Charles Gounod French opera "Faust", dialogue and musical soundtrack/score. It's a must have for fans of Lon Chaney and for those who admire the art of early horror in cinema. Lon Chaney was the first, real horror film star. He was known in his day as "The Man With A Thousand Faces". His films were tinged with horror, violence (whether external or internal), and heavy tragedy and melancholia. He morphed into different characters by putting on layers and layers of costume and make-up. He could be everything from the tragic murderer-clown in "Laugh Clown Laugh" (inspired by the Leoncavallo opera "I Pagliacci") the hunchback Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and in this case the frightening living spectre in Phantom Of The Opera.
The Phantom Of The Opera was first a French novel. By the time of the 1925 and 1929 Lon Chaney film, it was already popular and a familiar story to many. Later, it would enjoy even more success in other film versions and even as a Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The simple but tragic story involves a pianist/organ player who was scarred for life in a fire in a theatre and forced to live under the new Paris Opera theatre. He has fallen in love with the soprano Christine. But he is feared and hated by those who work in the theatre- the ballerinas, conductor, musicians and singers ( who incidentally are rehearsing for performances of Gounod's Faust, an opera about the man who sold his soul to the Devil and regarded as Gothic and scary in its day) The sheer scale of suspense and horror in the film is tame by today's standards but it was great back then. It really is a film of great art. It would be a perfect addition to you're film collection. If you love Lon Chaney, this film is the one to get. You can always build upon Lon Chaney films since his movies are numerous. Five stars well earned.
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on January 7, 2004
Ah, yes! How could I, as Amazon's horror hostess, avoid discussing this haunting silent film classic? Released way back in 1925, "The Phantom of the Opera" displays the extravagance of live theatre, a delightful feast for the eyes. Set in the Paris Opera, the film stands out in its grand opulence; its lavish sets include the wide staircase, endless statue carvings, a full orchestra pit, the building's five tiers, and a chorus of petite ballet girls leaping in starch-white linen. Let's not forget the immense crystal chandelier which falls upon the terrified audience, triggering a spread of screams and terror. The Masquerade Ball is stained in Technicolor and shows the coquettish merriment of 19th century aristocrats. Even actress Mary Philbin is granted a gorgeous introduction as the tale's beautiful chorus girl, Christine Daae; crowned with golden curls that cascade down to her waist, she rises above the stage on angel's wings during her aria in "Faust." Despite a few plot alterations (including its violent ending), most of the film is drawn from Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel. The cast itself is quite extraordinary to watch; Norman Kelly's role as Christine's lover, Raoul de Chagney, reflects that of a hero drawn forward by curiosity and concern. Arthur Edmund Carewe's Ledoux (a substitute for Leroux's Persian character) is mysterious enough to make viewers wonder who's side he takes, until it's finally revealed that he works for the Secret Police. Virginia Pearson performs her role as Carlotta's Mother with a prima donna gusto; fiercely determined to boost her daughter's career, she's a woman who will won't let an Opera Ghost get in her way. Speaking of the Opera Ghost, no actor can bring the grotesque and somber Erik to life like Lon Chaney, the Man of 1000 Faces. His love for Christine twists into a deadly obsession, and viewers will pity his cursed existence. Interestingly, before this movie premiered, Chaney insured a contractual obligation that forbid photographers from revealing his makeup. In the scene when Christine first exposes The Phantom's grotesque face (with its bulging eyes, gnarled teeth, and protruding cheekbones), old women fainted in the audience and were revived with smelling salts! Obviously, he took great care to match the description given by the doomed stagehand Joseph Buquet (Bernard Siegel): Erik's was said to look like a hollow skull with yellow parchment skin.
I don't want to bore you with any extraneous detail. I just want to say that this film is the BEST version you can see of "Phantom of the Opera." It's a chilling and melodramatic piece of cinematic art.
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on November 3, 2003
This collector's edition provided my first opportunity to see the original 1925 release version. Wow! I had no idea how badly Universal mutilated the film for the 1929 sound re-issue - the version we're all familiar with! Most of the annoying continuity problems and other flaws I had assumed were caused by all the post-production tinkering Phantom went through before its general release were apparently inflicted on the film at the time of the re-issue. The 1925 version follows the novel more closely, scenes flow together more naturally, the characters' motivations are far more believable - heck, even the unmasking scene works better! Despite the less-than pristine visual quality of the source material, the 1925 version in this collection is by far the superior film.
That said, it was still a treat (in a campy kind of way) hearing the original sound track with the 1929 version, and the extra features are plentiful and worthwhile. The Ultimate Edition belongs in every Chaney/Phantom fan's collection.
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on October 22, 2003
For starters, I agree with all the positive things said about this 2-disc set.
Unfortunately, there a couple of things about the discs that just spoiled the whole experience for me and may do so with you.
First, there is a "motion blur" or "ghosting" artifact that runs throughout the 1929/30 restoration. It looks similar to what a transfer from PAL video format to NTSC video format looks like only more exaggerated (images appear to be overlapped or double--sometimes triple--exposed). During the unmasking, Chaney's face is unnecessarily blurred, even when using freeze frame and stepping through the scene frame by frame.
Milestone has acknowledged the "ghosting", attributing it to adjusting the frame rate of the film during transfer from video master to video master. Incidentally, the original video master was in PAL format and was converted to NTSC for US, but Milestone claims PAL to NTSC was not the cause. Since they performed the additional restoration/picture cleaning on the overly "ghosted" transfer, it became a trade-off as to whether to present the cleaned up version or the "unghosted" version. Why such extensive restoration was done to a video master with excessive motion blur is beyond me.
For some folks, this will be a minor thing. For others, it will be very distracting and cast a dark cloud over what looks like to be the cleanest 'print' of this movie in existence. I will be keeping the other Image DVD edition with the David Shepherd restoration.
Secondly, for the special features, the pause, fast forward, and reverse functions have been disabled. This can be a bit of a nuisance. For example, there is a 21 minute "restored version" of the films' original premiere utilizing stills and expository text. This I was excited about. However, unless you are a speed reader, you won't be able to read everything in one viewing. You can't pause it, or "rewind" to read what you missed. It is like trying to enjoy a book (both text and pictures) with someone else turning the pages for you. If you miss something, you have to start over from page one and go through again.
Again, some of you won't care about the motion blur one iota. Others will feel as I do: This disc should've been a contender but instead, it feels like a missed opportunity.
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on October 15, 2003
This 2 disc-set of milestone by far not only the best edition for the phantom of the opera,but also the finest restoration I have ever seen in my life for a movie. First,the 1929 version-Allow me to say it's tinting is great,the sharpness of the picture is by far the best I've ever seen,the orchestral score by carl davis makes you thrilled enough,and,of course-the 1929 soundtrack,makes this movie much more alive then ever.I admire the phantom's shdow voice quite much.the opera sequences are perfect,among everything else.I am so relieved now that I could finally hear the 1929 surviving soundtrack,he really is worth all the set.And as for the movie,allow me to say,best silent horror movie ever made,from the very reason that it's a horror film that also persents the hero not only as an eager beast,thanks to Lon Chnaey,the god of horror films ever,who knew how to bring life and soul to erik.
The 1925 version,allow me to say,shocked me.It was so fabolous!
There were such a wroth-watching scenes that it's a shame they were removed in 1929.This version,however,is closet to the book,has more plot,and looks much more intresting.Every phantom fan must have the 1925 original version.that is to say.
"THE MASTER SHALL LEAVE YOU YET-TO HIGHT OF IMMORTAL GLORY. THENCEFORTH-YOUR LIFE BELONGS TO HIM."
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on October 15, 2003
This 2 disc-set of milestone by far not only the best edition for the phantom of the opera,but also the finest restoration I have ever seen in my life for a movie. First,the 1929 version-Allow me to say it's tinting is great,the sharpness of the picture is by far the best I've ever seen,the orchestral score by carl davis makes you thrilled enough,and,of course-the 1929 soundtrack,makes this movie much more alive then ever.I admire the phantom's shdow voice quite much.the opera sequences are perfect,among everything else.I am so relieved now that I could finally hear the 1929 surviving soundtrack,he really is worth all the set.And as for the movie,allow me to say,best silent horror movie ever made,from the very reason that it's a horror film that also persents the hero not only as an eager beast,thanks to Lon Chnaey,the god of horror films ever,who knew how to bring life and soul to erik.
The 1925 version,allow me to say,shocked me.It was so fabolous!
There were such a wroth-watching scenes that it's a shame they were removed in 1929.This version,however,is closet to the book,has more plot,and looks much more intresting.Every phantom fan must have the 1925 original version.that is to say.
"THE MASTER SHALL LIVE YOU YET-TO HIGHT OF IMMORTAL GLORY. THENCEFORTH-YOUR LIFE BELONGS TO HIM."
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on October 8, 2003
Most videotapes, DVDs, and even LaserDiscs are silent prints of the 1929 reissue. Here we finally see the true original 1925 version. The 1925 version only exists in this DVD set and an old LaserDisc from Blackhawk Films. Also, we finally hear the audio for the reissue - the first time for this to be available anywhere.
Disc 1 has the 1930 reissue which has at least one difference from all of the other versions. There is no man with a lantern at the beginning. For me, that was how I used to identify the reissue. The Blackhawk Films and Alpha DVDs (as well as every videotape edition I've seen) have a scene with a man holding a lantern supposedly giving a prologue speech - with no audio track. This scene is not on this DVD from Milestone. This scene is not necessary so we aren't missing much. The box claims this is the 1929 edition. The commentary says this is the 1930 international version, which could explain the difference. Since the commentary is done by a film expert, I tend to trust that source more.
The image quality seems better than any other edition of this movie. The color tinting is nicely done. You have the options to listen to the restored audio of the reissue, a nice score by Carl Davis, or commentary by Scott MacQueen.
It's nice to finally hear the reissue as it was intended. Although it was probably interesting to audiences at the time, it comes across as a bit cheesy. It's almost camp. Most of the spoken dialogue is unnecessary and simply rephrase some of the titles. It almost turns it into a B-movie. It seems no different from all of these other, more recent movies getting updated with CGI effects. Here Universal was trying to cash in on the new technology of "talkies" by simply updating a hit movie from a few years earlier.
Disc 1 also has all of the usual extras such as trailers and photo galleries. The photos are not still frames. It is a presentation with each photo appearing on screen for a set time. There are also photo reconstructions of the Los Angeles and San Francisco premier versions. The reconstructions are a series of still images used to show what these versions may have been like. It's not on the same level as the reconstruction of London After Midnight shown on TCM. These are very basic.
Disc 2 has the 1925 domestic, general release version originally shown in New York. (There are three different 1925 editions.) I can only compare this to my Blackhawk Films LaserDisc. Ironicly, this DVD has a man holding a lantern at the beginning after the opening titles. This scene was not on the Blackhawk Films' LaserDisc. However, there are titles for his speech. There are no wonderful prints of the original 1925 edition so this version doesn't have the same sharp image as the prints of the reissue. This is about as good as you're going to see. The 1925 version has more titles and more plot. It does have a longer running time. You're told more about each character, while in 1929, you mainly just got the name and a very brief description. This is the only video edition of the 1925 version with a musical score. (The LaserDisc provided the 1925 print as an extra with no sound.)
The Lon Chaney version of Phantom of the Opera is the only film version to follow the original novel fairly closely. The Persian becomes Ledoux of the Secret Police in this movie, and the ending is very different. There were remakes produced in 1943 with Claude Rains, 1962 with Herbert Lom, 1983 with Maximilian Schell, 1989 with Robert England, 1991 with Charles Dance, and 1999 with Julian Sands.
It's amazing how many times this movie has been remade, but for me, the Lon Chaney version remains the best. This DVD gives you the best presentation of Chaney's version that I have found to date. I would recommend this DVD set to any fan of the story.
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