The Phantom of the Opera arrives this week on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, which has become legendary in the past couple of years for giving a fantastic treatment to cult movies you would never expect to be treated this well. Dwight H. Little’s 1989 version of Gaston Leroux’s classic novel has never been the most famous adaptation. It didn’t gross a ton of money.
With Robert Englund as the titular phantom, it was advertised to ride the success of the Nightmare on Elm Street series and was ultimately overshadowed by them. It has garnered some well deserved fans over the years and a bit of a cult following, but is nowhere as popular as the Freddy films or even Little’s previous horror effort, Halloween 4.
The movie itself is strong. It’s an incredibly competent adaptation that deviates somewhat from the source material by turning it into a Faustian story in which Erik the Phantom made a deal with the devil for the world to love his music, but it cost him his handsome face. It’s not a distracting change and the feature makes the most out of it.
Jill Schoelen also shines as the leading lady, Christine Day, who is the object of the Phantom’s desire. What makes this stand out among so many other adaptations of the story is the focus on the obsessive nature of the Phantom’s relationship with Christine. It’s one-sided and while there’s a romantic element to it, what Erik is doing is not romanticized.
There’s a great scene in which he takes home a prostitute and calls her Christine. When she corrects him and explains that that is not her name, he says “Tonight, your name is Christine.” No other version of Phantom of the Opera has played that element so well. All of the murders that occur are driven by his obsession for Christine, save for the scene in which Erik kills a group of thieves in self-defense.
The effects by Kevin Yagher are wonderful and you get to truly appreciate them for the first time on Blu-Ray. The Phantom’s face is, in places, actually a retooled version of Yagher’s Freddy makeup. For the section of the face that it covers, though, it works very well.
The transfer for the film is astounding. As always, Scream Factory has gone the extra mile to bring fans the best possible product. Englund and director Dwight Little have said that their Phantom of the Opera was heavily influenced by the Hammer productions of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. This has never been more obvious.
In addition to a much clearer picture, the corrected color timing makes this a much more visually appealing feature. While it was always easy to take in the gorgeous production design, the use of color brings a European flair that winds up helping it out a lot. There is a great, gothic sense of style at work here but it never becomes too stylized for its own good.
It feels like an older film, but it is very much a product of its time. This picture has a strong atmosphere and gorgeous production design. It is very much driven by the story and the actors. Yet it is also a 1980’s horror with all of the gore that one would expect from the era. It’s well balanced, though.
Fans of the movie will no doubt be impressed with the Blu-Ray treatment, which is gorgeous. The special features include a new commentary track with Dwight H. Little and Robert Englund, a new featurette titled “Behind the Mask: The Making of Phantom of the Opera,” which includes new interviews with Little, Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Duke Sandefur, Kevin Yagher and others. There are also trailers, TV spots, radio spots, and a still gallery.
If you’ve already seen the film and liked it, this is the ultimate way to view it and is definitely worth it. If you’ve never seen it before, this is the best time and the best way you could ever be introduced to it.
WICKED RATING: 7.5/10
- Director: Dwight H. Little
- Writer(s): Gerry O’Hara, Duke Sandefur
- Studio/Production Co: 21st Century Film Corporation, Breton Film Productions, Dee Gee Entertainment
- Stars: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Bill Nighy
- Language: English
- Length: 93 minutes
- Year: 1989
- Sub-genre: Gothic, classical horror