In anticipation of the upcoming big screen debut of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera horror musical (December 22, in limited release), a 1989 version of the same story, with Robert Englund in the lead role, is being released in DVD. I’m a fan of horror (well, duh!), love Englund’s work, and know the ‘Phantom’ story very well — yet, I have never seen this particular movie before.
This more horror-heavy plot follows a beautiful young singer, Christine Day (Jill Schoelen), from present times back to the 1800s in an opulent era where opera ruled and its greatest patron was a mysterious man known only as “the Phantom”. The Phantom is usually portrayed as a sad, tragic, and romantic figure… he does have some of those elements in this mostly faithful film version of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, but with Robert “Freddy Kruger” Englund as the man behind the mask, you know you’re in for just a little more.
A little more gore, to be specific. Early on in the film the Phantom disembowels a man, flays another alive, scares a woman to death, and bleeds somebody else dry so he can use their skin to graft over his own disfigured face. All the while, he finds the time to pick red roses for Christine and to woo her into his loving embrace.
He becomes Christine’s music teacher and the two of them collaborate on his work-in-progress, Don Juan Triumphant. The two make a pact to love each other forever and ever, but when Christine goes back to live her life in the 1980s she forgets her promise. The betrayed Phantom follows her through space and time, and with him comes bloody revenge.
The various backdrops for the phantom’s ill-intended forays are rife with candlelight, dark shadows, and looming tombstones. Atmospheric operatic and spooky symphonic music sets the tone.
While it’s got just enough 80s-cheese to keep it from being a beautiful or haunting movie, this slasher version of The Phantom of the Opera is a good, serious attempt at bringing the famous tale to life and it is never boring.
There is no additional release material on the DVD.
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson