For better or worse, Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of Gaston Leroux's gothic horror/romance novel has done for stage musicals what Spielberg's Jaws did for fish stories, with worldwide sales of its original cast album approaching 25 million. While director Joel Schumacher's film turns on his typically ambitious visual verve, its new film soundtrack recording has been paradoxically focused in scope, yet beefed up dynamically via the brawny presence of a hundred piece orchestra and The London Boys Choir. This double-disc version showcases all of Phantom's songs, with Gerard Butler imparting a welcome, youthful sensuality to his Phantom, making a fine foil for Emily Rossum's ever-conflicted Christine. Original show orchestrator David Cullen has fashioned compelling new contemporary arrangements to frame Webber's songs–which now conclude with the lilting, upbeat new ballad he wrote for the film, "Learn to Be Lonely," sung by Minnie Driver's Carlotta.
Pit violinist Claudin hopelessly loves rising operatic soprano Christine Dubois (as do baritone Anatole and police inspector Raoul) and secretly aids her career. But Claudin loses both his touch and his job, murders a rascally music publisher in a fit of madness, and has his face etched with acid. Soon, mysterious crimes plague the Paris Opera House, blamed on a legendary "phantom" whom none can find in the mazes and catacombs. But both of Christine's lovers have plans to ferret him out.
Lon Chaney, 'the man of a thousand faces', gives his most famous performance in this first version of the oft-filmed tale. Based on Gaston Leroux's novel, Chaney stars as the 'Phantom', living in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, who falls in love with the voice of a young opera singer. Infatuated, he kidnaps her, dragging her to the depths below where she will sing only for him.
Directed by Rupert Julian, this lavish 1925 production launched the Hollywood Gothic style - which would become the trademark of Universal horror films.
Original prints of the film were fully tinted, with some sequences in Technicolor, and a rooftop scene using a special process that enabled the Phantom's cloak to show red against the blue night sky. This Photoplay restoration carefully re-instates all these effects, and is accompanied by Carl Davis' celebrated score which draws heavily on Gounod's Faust, which is the opera being performed in the film.