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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 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 November 13, 2002
This is the best version of "The phantom of the opera" period. First this is the complete version of the 1929 reissue version. It runs 94 minutes and is played at the correct running speed. The version on IMAGE runs 79 minutes, and also has little tidbits cut out. When I want to see a film, muchless a "Classic" film I want it complete! Second this film is shown in B+W. NO TINTS! This movie was filmed in Black and White and that is the way that it should be shown. NO greens,reds, blues, or purples. This DVD also includes the "ORIGINAL" technicolor Bal Masque sequence. Third off,no box presentation. Unlike the IMAGE DVD where the film is shown in a boxlike fasion (little bars on all 4 sides of the screen). This version covers the complete screen. There are (unfortunately) no bonus materials included and itwould have been nice to include the original 1925 version which has different footage than the 1929 reissue version which is included here. The price (...) however overcompensates for these little drawbacks. I am so happy to finally get one of my favorite films is this correct and respectful version. Bravo to Alpha Video for getting it right.
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on December 1, 2000
By far the best version of the first Phantom is the '98 British Film Institute's. Probably possessing the best orchestral score and certainly having the most striking retouching job to the print, this one far outshines any and all of the others, which are in some cases, complete hatchet jobs. As for the movie itself, well, how can you classify a film that's so much superior to subsequent versions that it shines? Of course, in the Twenties, Universal had access to huge amounts of cash - hence the construction of that opera house (yes; they actually built it as a set and didn't use something that was already there) as well as a gem in Chaney. The fact that it's a silent picture is no barrier to fear in this. Chaney is creepier before his unmasking scene than during or after it. Philbin and Kerry are excellent foils for him. Interestingly enough, Leroux's unhorrific flavour is drowned out, completely leaving the viewer with an absence of sympathy for the skull-faced ghoul as he gets his head mashed and is thrown in the Seine at the end. The BFI version is on PAL format, unfortunately, but, having seen half a dozen different companies try to get it right with rereleasing this on video, I have to declare that none of them can touch this one, available from
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on April 19, 2000
Warning to all purist. The DVD of the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is not the triumph of preservation its advertised as being. First and most important to home theatre owners, the transfer is simply not in focus! Unlike in the movie theatre you cant ask the projetionist to refocus the image.. you are stuck with it. Secondly: if the "preservationists" found the best pre-print material in the 1929 synchronized re-edit as described on the liner notes, why in heavens name don't they present it as originally shown? Pretending that it is the silent version by replacing the soundtrack may be the loophole by which the film could be categorized as public domain but it is inherently dishonest to present it as an example of "film preservation". The original silent cut, the synch sound release and the present (refocused) remaster would be much more apreciated service to posterity. Look to other silent film transfers for guidence in image quality limits.If the box indicates that the contents are a "SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION" and advertises "PRIME..35mm QUALITY" one wishes it lived up to its promise. (DVD version)
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on March 18, 2000
I must admit, having seen various incarnations of this classic on video, that I expected very little, vis-a-vis the DVD version. Boy, was I surprised! This is yet another triumph by Blackhawk Films. The image quality is superb, with color tintings that greatly enhance this seminal silent film. Lon Chaney is, of course, magnificent as the demented and malformed Phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. His most well-known role (deservedly so, how DID he create that extra-ordinary make-up?) is a timeless one, as a man longing for love, but who can never obtain it. This version features a beautiful symphonic score by Gabriel Thibaudoux, and as far as silent films go, a very impressive one. A newly mastered version at the correct running speed of 20 frames per second, from the original 35 mm print. Trivial? Not if one wants to view this classic as it was meant to be seen. This version also features an essay by Michael Blake, Chaney expert, on the inside of the case. An altogether superior version, highly recommended by a Chaney fan of over 30 years.
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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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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 November 12, 2001
I viewing a copy of "The Phantom of the Opera," I chose the Kino version which had part of the masque colorized. The edition also had the original trailer and an interview with an editor talking about the film. Although I did not find that specific version here, the information I learned helped me to appreciate any edition.
First, this movie does not end like the book. The film was to be extravagant and the entire opera house was built by the studio. Because of this extravagance, the studio felt that the movie should have a more dramatic ending. From the interview, I learned that they filmed many different endings and you will see the one they chose. The chase scene was directed by a director of westerns since he knew how to direct horses. The final scene also has a bit of improv by Lon Chaney which really seems to work.
This leads me to more on Lon Chaney. Even with this make-up on and no dialogue (it is a silent movie), he has no problem is showing you all the emotions that his character goes through. It is not just a monster terrorizing the people of the opera, but is a who really can not help himself. Even the simplest of gestures speaks volumes from Chaney.
Without sound and buried in makeup, Chaney still presents us with a great movie. Even though it is a silent film, you will have no trouble in getting involved in this film.
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