THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
UK/US/France, 1990, 168 minutes. Colour.
Burt Lancaster, Adam Storke, Teri Polo, Charles Dance, Ian Richardson, Andrea Ferreol, Jean- Pierre Cassel.
Directed by Tony Richardson.
This version of The Phantom of the Opera has been overshadowed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. This film originates from Gaston Leroux’s original novel (filmed in 1925 with Lon Chaney, in 1943 with Nelson Eddy and Claude Rains) but is also based on a play by Arthur Kopit (Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Nine). This is a literate version of the story and boasts a strong cast as well as location filming in France and a strong French supporting cast.
Charles Dance portrays the Phantom of the opera as a mild-mannered man, hidden away in the depths of the opera house by his father, played by Burt Lancaster. The young girl from the country, Christine (played by Teri Polo at the age of twenty – and later better known for her roles in the Meet the Parents series), is the wardrobe assistant to the grande dame, Carlotta, played by Andrea Ferreol. Other members of the cast include Jean-Pierre? Cassel as the inspector, Ian Richardson as Cholet. Count Philippe de Chagny is the villain of the piece, wanting Christine to be a servant to his wife, Carlotta.
The film is drama, depth of character, interactions of character rather than musical. There are some excerpts from operas including Faust, by Gounod.
The film was directed by Tony Richardson who had won an Oscar for Tom Jones, who had been a pioneer in the more realistic films of the late 1950s-early 1960s in Britain (Look Back in Anger, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner). He had a varied career – and this was his second-last film.
(There was a horror version produced at the same time starring Robert Englund, Freddie Krueger, as the Phantom.)
1. A popular version of the story? The classic story, for the 1990s?
2. The television style, for screening over two nights? For watching as a complete television film? The audience intended, the home audience?
3. The work of Arthur Kopit, his plays and adaptations? The career of Tony Richardson? The strong international cast?
4. The adaptation from the Leroux novel, for a play? Humanising the characters and situations?
5. Paris, the opera, the theatre, the stage, the world below the stage? The musical score? The opera excerpts?
6. The Phantom’s story? The flashbacks? Gerard and his work, the ballet, love, his wife’s pregnancy? The separation? The issue of the abortion, the birth of the boy? His mother’s death? The disfigurement of the boy’s face? His father’s reaction, keeping him underground, the various masks? The resentment of the music? The deaths and his luring people below? Yet a decent humanity? His response to Christine? Teaching her, her success? Carlotta, the rats, the chandelier? Philippe and his reaction to Christine, dismissal of Gerard? Taking Christine, the jealousy, her languishing, his father and the story, dying? Christine’s triumph? The Phantom and his face not being seen, only Christine’s reaction? The shooting, the chase? The face and the mask? The pathos?
7. Gerard, his past life, at the opera, his being dismissed by the count, his work and his memories? His story? Telling Christine, talking to his son? The ultimate shooting?
8. Christine, coming from the country, mocked because of her origins, assigned to the wardrobe, serving Carlotta? Her own singing, being taught? The tavern? Philippe and his reactions? The flashbacks? Carlotta and her jealousy? Her being taken by the Phantom, Gerard and his pursuit? The escape, the picnic? Seeing Erik’s face? Her singing at the end?
9. Carlotta, the count as her manager, her pomposity, being warned, her singing, failing? The Phantom and the deaths? The rivalry with Christine? The duet? Her wheedling the name, the poison, the rats, madness? Her husband and his exploitation of her?
10. The count, his reputation, love, in the tavern? The police? The absence?
11. The role of the police, the investigations, the inspector?
12. The doorman and his role, helping Gerard?
13. The opera, the staging of the operas, the singing?
14. The mother’s story and its contribution?
15. Audience familiarity with the story, the differences, the deeper humanity?