The Phantom of the Opera is a 1925 horror film starring Lon Chaney and it is one of the classic silent horror films and one of the greatest American films of the period.
This movie was appealing to me from the very beginning when they were talking about the Phantom and I realized it was going to be a great story. And unfortunately the story never quite reached its potential due to a slower first act and it should have been longer, but it is still a great story with a fascinating intrigue and finale.
The film benefits greatly from its visual and extremely strong technical aspects overall. The score is good, the production design and art direction are splendid, but what strikes the most and is very memorable and authentic is its dark and gothic imagery and of course the chilling atmosphere. The underground is creepy and visually astounding, it seems as if it came right from the pages of a book or a comic-book, it is so wonderfully realized and beautiful to look at. And it creates the dark and mysterious atmosphere which fits the story perfectly. The sequence which is the most memorable and the finest overall in my opinion is the one where they are chasing him and he is underwater. It is such a visually stunning, creative and superbly realized scene from start to finish and a great plot point and also terrific action sequence, very advanced for its time.
The acting is not the greatest from the rest of the cast, but Lon Chaney is of course excellent in the title role, he steals the show whenever he is on scene and is absolutely spellbinding and powerful. It is the same for the characters, the characterization is weak for the supporting characters, but thanks to the lead actor and great character development, the Phantom is very good and he is along with the visuals, the best part of this film without a doubt. He has a great presence and wonderful arc that it is such a shame that he wasn’t in the film the whole running time.
Then there is of course the face reveal sequence which is one of the most memorable scenes in the whole of silent cinema. It is undoubtedly authentic and memorable, but also wonderfully acted and finely executed. It is easy to see why the audiences were frightened and even fainted when they first saw it in theatres back in the year it was released. The make-up is important here to talk about because it is the biggest reason why it is such a striking and powerful scene. Lon Chaney did the make-up himself and he was masterful in it. The face is such an iconic face in cinema, so phenomenally thought out and an excellent make-up which was rare for the period is one of the reasons the film achieves fantastic realism and evident suspense and creepiness factor. That whole scene along with the chase that followed and the finale are all the sequences that lifted this film to the next level.