The Phantom of the Opera


1h 24m 1962
The Phantom of the Opera

Brief Synopsis

Retelling of the story of a new opera disrupted by the actions of a deformed specter of the show's past who has an obsession with a chorus girl.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
London opening: June 1962; Los Angeles opening: 15 Aug 1962
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal--International
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Le fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux (Paris, 1910).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

During the London opening of Saint Joan , a new opera by Lord Ambrose D'Arcy, the body of a murdered stagehand swings out of the wings on a rope into full view of the terrified audience. The prima donna quits the production after the ghastly occurrence, forcing D'Arcy and producer Harry Hunter to audition for a replacement. They discover Christine Charles, a talented but unknown singer, but D'Arcy refuses to use her after she rejects his romantic advances. Shortly thereafter, Christine is abducted by a dwarf and carried to a grotto under the opera house, where she is confronted by a masked figure who offers to give her vocal training. Meanwhile, Harry has discovered that Saint Joan was actually written by an unknown composer who supposedly drowned in the Thames after suffering severe burns. Following the victim's trail, Harry finds himself in an underground sewer tunnel, which leads to Christine and her captor. Touched by the phantom's tale of D'Arcy's thievery, Harry agrees not to interfere with Christine's lessons, and a few weeks later she performs at the opera's reopening. As she takes her bow, however, the dwarf is spotted watching the performance, and in his attempt to flee, he accidentally breaks loose a heavy chandelier directly above Christine. Aware of her danger, the phantom rips off his mask, leaps to the stage, and throws Christine to safety before the chandelier kills him.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
London opening: June 1962; Los Angeles opening: 15 Aug 1962
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal--International
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Le fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux (Paris, 1910).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Articles

The Phantom of the Opera (1962)


Hammer Films' 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera began in the unlikeliest of ways: with a request from Cary Grant. Hammer producer Anthony Hinds later recounted that Grant approached him to say he would like to make a horror film. "The only thing we could think of was Phantom of the Opera," said Hinds. "I knew he'd never make it, but he was insistent, so I wrote the thing for him." Hammer had reached an agreement with Universal International in 1958 to make a new version of Phantom, and, as Hinds predicted, Grant eventually dropped out of the project.

Hinds replaced him not with his usual Hammer stars like Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, but with the surprising choice of Herbert Lom, who had played mostly supporting roles for about twenty years. Lately, however, Lom had gotten more significant parts in Spartacus (1960), El Cid (1961) and Mysterious Island (1961). Soon, with A Shot in the Dark (1964), he'd take his first crack at the recurring role for which he is best remembered: Chief Inspector Dreyfus, in the Pink Panther series.

Camera operator Len Harris later said that Lom "was a late choice for the role but made the most of it... [He] was excellent and gave something to the role that Cushing might not have. Like most Hammer stars, he was a real gentleman--and also quite a practical joker!"

With Lom as the Phantom, the character took on different shades than audiences had seen in 1925 from Lon Chaney or in 1943 from Claude Rains. As film writer Harry Ringel later observed, "Lom comes across as gifted, intelligent, desperately lonely, and grossly ignorant of the ways of the world which would not think twice about stealing his musical compositions: consistent with the most human [Terence] Fisher monsters before and since, but hardly compatible with the public's conception of the Phantom. Significantly, the most memorable image in this quietly moving film occurs not during the unmasking scene, which is abruptly thrown away in long shot at the climax; instead, as the Phantom listens to the singing of the young woman he has trained, he weeps silently in close-up, behind the impassivity of his one-eyed mask."

Indeed, director Terence Fisher, who was already a veteran of Hammer horror films like Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959), was in this case more interested in the lush love story than in the sensational horror elements of the tale. According to Marcus Hearn, he was also somewhat constricted by a requirement from distributor Rank that the film be rated with an "A" certificate.

Filming took place from late November 1961 through January 1962. Heather Sears, who had drawn critical acclaim for The Story of Esther Costello (1957) and Sons and Lovers (1960), was cast as Christine, and composer Edwin Astley concocted an original opera for the score. Makeup man Roy Ashton later said that much effort was spent on having elaborate masks made by a professional mask maker, none of which pleased the producer and director. Ashton then suggested that "this chap would have picked up a discarded prop to hide his disfigurement," and everyone agreed that a simple mask would be most appropriate.

The picture opened in the UK in June 1962, with an American release two months later. Reviews were mixed, with Americans somewhat preferring the film to the British, but in all, the movie was a critical and commercial dud.

Fisher himself noted in 1964 that "the weakness of [the film] is that its realism isn't really justified. There is no complexity to the Phantom's actions; the character is never very close to us, and remains superficial." But by 1975, he had changed his tune, writing: "I cannot understand it being a box-office loss even to this day. I thought it was very good... I may have underemphasized some things I wanted to do...and overemphasized others. I emphasized the tragedy of the film, which was the important thing to me."

In 1964, Fisher also wrote of his approach to movie monsters in general: "I've always involved the monster in the frame, planted him in the décor. I've never used the conventional style, where you keep harping on reaction shots and cutting away from him. I believe in building things up, naturally, but I've never isolated the monster from the world around, or tried to avoid showing him. The exception is Phantom of the Opera. There was no reason to show his face there; you'd seen the acid go into his face, you knew how pitifully he was in agony all the time.... But most of my films aren't horror films, you know. They're macabre, which is a little different."

After this film, Fisher took some time off from Hammer to make two movies for outside companies, though he would eventually return to Hammer with The Gorgon (1964) and become the most prolific director in Hammer's history, with 29 titles in all.

By Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:
Terence Fisher, "Horror is my Business," Films and Filming, July 1964
Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault
Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography
Paul Leggett, Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion
Harry Ringel, "The Horrible Hammer Films of Terence Fisher," Take One, Jan.-Feb. 1972
The Phantom Of The Opera (1962)

The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Hammer Films' 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera began in the unlikeliest of ways: with a request from Cary Grant. Hammer producer Anthony Hinds later recounted that Grant approached him to say he would like to make a horror film. "The only thing we could think of was Phantom of the Opera," said Hinds. "I knew he'd never make it, but he was insistent, so I wrote the thing for him." Hammer had reached an agreement with Universal International in 1958 to make a new version of Phantom, and, as Hinds predicted, Grant eventually dropped out of the project. Hinds replaced him not with his usual Hammer stars like Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, but with the surprising choice of Herbert Lom, who had played mostly supporting roles for about twenty years. Lately, however, Lom had gotten more significant parts in Spartacus (1960), El Cid (1961) and Mysterious Island (1961). Soon, with A Shot in the Dark (1964), he'd take his first crack at the recurring role for which he is best remembered: Chief Inspector Dreyfus, in the Pink Panther series. Camera operator Len Harris later said that Lom "was a late choice for the role but made the most of it... [He] was excellent and gave something to the role that Cushing might not have. Like most Hammer stars, he was a real gentleman--and also quite a practical joker!" With Lom as the Phantom, the character took on different shades than audiences had seen in 1925 from Lon Chaney or in 1943 from Claude Rains. As film writer Harry Ringel later observed, "Lom comes across as gifted, intelligent, desperately lonely, and grossly ignorant of the ways of the world which would not think twice about stealing his musical compositions: consistent with the most human [Terence] Fisher monsters before and since, but hardly compatible with the public's conception of the Phantom. Significantly, the most memorable image in this quietly moving film occurs not during the unmasking scene, which is abruptly thrown away in long shot at the climax; instead, as the Phantom listens to the singing of the young woman he has trained, he weeps silently in close-up, behind the impassivity of his one-eyed mask." Indeed, director Terence Fisher, who was already a veteran of Hammer horror films like Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959), was in this case more interested in the lush love story than in the sensational horror elements of the tale. According to Marcus Hearn, he was also somewhat constricted by a requirement from distributor Rank that the film be rated with an "A" certificate. Filming took place from late November 1961 through January 1962. Heather Sears, who had drawn critical acclaim for The Story of Esther Costello (1957) and Sons and Lovers (1960), was cast as Christine, and composer Edwin Astley concocted an original opera for the score. Makeup man Roy Ashton later said that much effort was spent on having elaborate masks made by a professional mask maker, none of which pleased the producer and director. Ashton then suggested that "this chap would have picked up a discarded prop to hide his disfigurement," and everyone agreed that a simple mask would be most appropriate. The picture opened in the UK in June 1962, with an American release two months later. Reviews were mixed, with Americans somewhat preferring the film to the British, but in all, the movie was a critical and commercial dud. Fisher himself noted in 1964 that "the weakness of [the film] is that its realism isn't really justified. There is no complexity to the Phantom's actions; the character is never very close to us, and remains superficial." But by 1975, he had changed his tune, writing: "I cannot understand it being a box-office loss even to this day. I thought it was very good... I may have underemphasized some things I wanted to do...and overemphasized others. I emphasized the tragedy of the film, which was the important thing to me." In 1964, Fisher also wrote of his approach to movie monsters in general: "I've always involved the monster in the frame, planted him in the décor. I've never used the conventional style, where you keep harping on reaction shots and cutting away from him. I believe in building things up, naturally, but I've never isolated the monster from the world around, or tried to avoid showing him. The exception is Phantom of the Opera. There was no reason to show his face there; you'd seen the acid go into his face, you knew how pitifully he was in agony all the time.... But most of my films aren't horror films, you know. They're macabre, which is a little different." After this film, Fisher took some time off from Hammer to make two movies for outside companies, though he would eventually return to Hammer with The Gorgon (1964) and become the most prolific director in Hammer's history, with 29 titles in all. By Jeremy Arnold SOURCES: Terence Fisher, "Horror is my Business," Films and Filming, July 1964 Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography Paul Leggett, Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion Harry Ringel, "The Horrible Hammer Films of Terence Fisher," Take One, Jan.-Feb. 1972

Quotes

Trivia

The film was originally written for Cary Grant, who wanted to do a horror film. The Phantom's character was rewritten as a more tragic figure, with the dwarf doing the actual violence, to suit Grant's image. Grant declined the part (possibly unhappy with the watered down character) and it went to Lom.

The "London Opera House" used here is actually the Wimbledon Theatre.

The mask was made on the fly just before shooting out of cloth, tape, string and paint.

Notes

John Elder is a pseudonym for Anthony Hinds. FOr information on other versions of The Phantom of the Opera, please consult the entry for the 1943 Universal release Phantom of the Opera

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States August 15, 1962

Released in United States July 25, 1962

Released in United States Summer June 1962

Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996

Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.

Released in United States July 25, 1962 (Los Angeles)

Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996

Released in United States August 15, 1962

Released in United States Summer June 1962