Best haunted opera house movie

It is, of course, the 1925 <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PECLB000929" title="Lon Chaney" href="/topic/entertainment/lon-chaney-PECLB000929.topic">Lon Chaney</a> "Phantom of the Opera," directed by Rupert Julian. The star reportedly feared that the production's baroque extravagance would swallow up his characterization of the disfigured musical genius. But the way the movie came out, the cadaverous look Chaney developed for the Phantom and the lushness of the Grand Opera House of Paris (as rebuilt on the Universal lot) meshed in an upsettingly right way. More than ever, the Phantom became the skeleton in opera's closet, embodying the idea that art is dangerous -- as dangerous as sex is in vampire movies, and sometimes just as sexy, too. <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT006175" title="Tony Richardson" href="/topic/sports/tony-richardson-PESPT006175.topic">Tony Richardson</a> directed a beguiling version in 1989, filmed in the actual Paris Opera House, with keen casting ( <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PECLB0000005871" title="Charles Dance" href="/topic/entertainment/charles-dance-PECLB0000005871.topic">Charles Dance</a> as the Phantom, <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PECLB002905" title="Burt Lancaster" href="/topic/entertainment/burt-lancaster-PECLB002905.topic">Burt Lancaster</a> as his father) and with voluptuous romantic-fantasy interludes -- with everything, in fact, that a great "Phantom" needs, except moments of heart-stopping fright. The Chaney version is the one that delivers the payoff of deeply lurid thrills. (Both productions are available on Image DVDs; the Chaney, a Kino release, includes brilliant approximations of the original tints and a startling restoration of the Technicolor masked ball.)
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( Handout / March 10, 2005 )

It is, of course, the 1925 Lon Chaney "Phantom of the Opera," directed by Rupert Julian. The star reportedly feared that the production's baroque extravagance would swallow up his characterization of the disfigured musical genius. But the way the movie came out, the cadaverous look Chaney developed for the Phantom and the lushness of the Grand Opera House of Paris (as rebuilt on the Universal lot) meshed in an upsettingly right way. More than ever, the Phantom became the skeleton in opera's closet, embodying the idea that art is dangerous -- as dangerous as sex is in vampire movies, and sometimes just as sexy, too. Tony Richardson directed a beguiling version in 1989, filmed in the actual Paris Opera House, with keen casting ( Charles Dance as the Phantom, Burt Lancaster as his father) and with voluptuous romantic-fantasy interludes -- with everything, in fact, that a great "Phantom" needs, except moments of heart-stopping fright. The Chaney version is the one that delivers the payoff of deeply lurid thrills. (Both productions are available on Image DVDs; the Chaney, a Kino release, includes brilliant approximations of the original tints and a startling restoration of the Technicolor masked ball.)

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