Phantom of the Opera, The (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera (1925), directed by Rupert Julian.

The new theater owners have been warned but they don't take the tales of the Phantom seriously until they encounter him. He is not hard to find: he has a private box at the opera and returns every night to the old torture dungeons deep beneath the building. They say he escaped from an insane asylum and the stories about his face under that mask... can't be true, can they?

The unmasking scene is one of the iconic moments of world cinema. Audiences were given no preview of that and they say it was hysterical pandemonium in the theater on opening night. It's suggested that actress Mary Philbin had no warning either.

There is a lot of speculation about his makeup but Lon Chaney did it himself and took his secrets with him.

The film is in the public domain. My thumbnails are from the Kino Blu-ray, which includes both a 78m version at 24fps and a 92m version at 20fps. I think they are the same cut but I watched only the faster one.

The film has a complicated editing history; see the wikipedia article for details. Kino used the popular 1929 version, which was a re-issue with some sound and new footage, although no new scenes with Chaney.

I did not see the second Kino disc, but it is supposed to have the 1925 original cut from a lesser quality source.

The 1929 cuts come with three audio tracks:

We also have a commentary track by Jon Mirsalis, maintainer of The Lon Chaney Home Page. He says that only about a third of Chaney's silents survive, some only in fragments.

Silent films on nitrate do not age well; the negatives start to "bubble". Studios differed wildly on how well they preserved their libraries: MGM saved 70-80% of their silent films while Universal melted all of theirs down for the silver content.