Top critical review
Get the BFI version for the best.
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 Amazon.co.uk.