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Arthur Lubin
Nelson Eddy, Claude Rains, Susanna Foster
Writing Credits:
Eric Taylor, Samuel Hoffenstein

A disfigured violinist haunts the Paris Opera House.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
French DTS Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 9/2/14

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen
• “The Opera Ghost" Documentary
• Production Photographs
• Trailer
• “100 Years of Universal: The Lot” Featurette


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The Phantom of the Opera [Blu-Ray] (1943)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 18, 2018)

While there have been multiple editions of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and others over the years, their 1930s Universal versions still present the best-known of the bunch. However, that may not seem to be the case with Universal’s The Phantom of the Opera.

Instead of the 1925 Lon Chaney offering, we find the 1943 remake with Claude Rains. I haven't seen the older one, but I'd have to imagine it's better than this dull, tedious tale.

The film takes the tale of Erique Claudin (Rains), an aging violinist whose arthritis causes him to be fired from the symphony. Because he's been funding the voice lessons of a young singer named Christine (Susanna Foster), Claudin has no money saved, but he pins his financial hopes on some music he's written.

Claudin mistakenly thinks that someone attempts to steal his work and he throttles an agent. In the hubbub, he gets acid thrown on his face and he hides in the sewers of Paris while pursued by police.

Understandably displeased by this turn of events, Claudin seeks to boost Christine's prospects through a reign of terror. The police match wits with him as they try to prevent further violence and disruption.

This all sounds much more exciting than it is. As staged, Phantom seems fairly boring and tedious, with little spark to fire the project.

One problem stems from the fact that Claudin really shouldn't be all that difficult to catch. How does this meek little man all of a sudden turn into a mysterious force of evil who so thoroughly evades detection that many believe he's actually a ghost? I can understand the part about him going nuts, but I can't accept his almost-superhuman abilities.

I also find the film slow-paced and monotonous because it focuses far too much on the actual opera. This results in some lovely photography of the opera house - make no mistake, Phantom brings a well-shot film that looks great - but it makes the movie progress at a glacial rate.

All of that music feels like padding. Though the film runs only 93 minutes, it seems to go on forever.

Some useless "comic relief" exists in the form of baritone Anatole (Nelson Eddy) and policeman Raoul (Edgar Barrier). Rivals for the affections of Christine, they also form an unlikely pair who attempt to halt the Phantom.

Phantom plays much of their material for laughs. This makes them a) less than credible as forces against Erique, and b) creates an even less-ominous tone in this already too-lighthearted horror film.

As for the actors themselves, all are acceptable but none seem particularly compelling. This is especially disappointing in the case of Rains.

I’m a big fan of his work, as Rains maintained a consistently solid and compelling screen presence. However, he appears somewhat dull here and he does little to give the Phantom much of a spark. That wonderful voice of his worked to great effect in The Invisible Man but it doesn't inspire any terror here.

No, Phantom isn't unwatchable, but it's pretty slow-moving and dull, with little excitement or drama to inspire any affection toward it. I'd classify it as one of the weakest of the so-called A-list "Classic Monster" films.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Phantom of the Opera appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though parts of the image looked very good, nagging concerns damaged my overall impression.

The main culprit came from edge haloes, as these cropped up fairly frequently through the movie. The haloes varied in terms of how much they distracted, but they could create a nuisance too much of the time.

The haloes impacted sharpness, especially during wider elements, as they took away from fine detail. Close-ups and two shots fared better and showed pleasing clarity and accuracy.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and a decent layer of grain implied an absence of egregious digital noise reduction. In terms of print flaws. I saw a blotch and a couple small specks but nothing major.

The movie’s Technicolor palette worked nicely, as the hues seemed vivid and rich. The Blu-ray brought out the tones in a lively manner most of the time, as only a handful of shots showed slightly iffy colors.

Blacks came across with pleasing depth and richness, and low-light elements offered nice clarity and smoothness. Much of the presentation worked well, but those pesky edge haloes took away a lot of points.

As for the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack it seemed more than competent for its age. Music showed reasonable range, though I thought the score could sound a little thick at times. Still, the musical elements offered fairly good punch.

Dialogue also could sound a little dense, but the lines lacked edginess and remained intelligible. Effects felt accurate enough and lacked distortion. No hiss, hum or other source flaws marred the audio. This was a pretty good soundtrack for its age.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2000? Audio seemed more robust and less noisy, while visuals offered stronger clarity, brighter colors and fewer flaws. Even with my complaints about the image, it still topped the DVD.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we launch with an audio commentary from film historian Scott MacQueen. He gives us a running, screen-specific take on the history of the story, other productions of Phanton, details about the making of the picture and basic biographies of many of its participants.

MacQueen packs in a ton of information into the film's 93-minute running time. Altogether he brings a compelling and detailed commentary that provides some excellent information.

MacQueen also functions as the host of The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked, a 51-minute, 19-second documentary about the film. Actually, that should state "about the films", since the show provides surprisingly little information about the 1943 edition of Phantom itself.

Instead, we get a strong history of the book and the 1925 production plus details about such things as the famous - and still-in-use - set and later Phantoms.

In addition to MacQueen's comments as host, “Opera Ghost” features film historians Paul M. Jensen and Rudy Behlmer, actor/dancer/Universal founder’s niece Carla Laemmle, actors Susanna Foster and Turhan Bey, and Claude Rains' daughter Jessica. We learn a lot about various iterations of Phantom in this informative piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a five-minute, 47-second running collection of Production Photographs. It includes posters, publicity shots and images from the set. These weren’t rescanned for Blu-ray so they don’t look as good as they should, but they still provide some interesting elements.

With 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, we find a nine-minute, 25-second featurette that gives us comments from filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Peyton Reed, Ivan Reitman, Peter Berg, John Landis, Ron Howard, Michael Mann, Phil Alden Robinson, and John Carpenter, NBC Universal Archives and Collections director Jeff Pirtle, Universal Studios Hollywood tour guide Molly Orr, and actors Dan Aykroyd, Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep.

This one takes us around the Universal Studios locations and tells us a little about movies made there. What does any of this have to do with Phantom? Very little.

Midway through a short discussion of Universal horror, we get a quick snippet from the film and a reference to the “Phantom Stage” but that’s it, as no one discusses the 1943 flick at all. Despite the featurette’s disconnect from Phantom, it seems pretty fun. While it aims to promote the greatness that is Universal, it’s still light and likable.

The 1943 edition of Phantom of the Opera provides an intermittently-interesting but generally dull and bloodless retelling of the classic tale. Even the presence of the great Claude Rains can't spice up the proceedings. The Blu-ray offers erratic visuals along with pretty good audio and supplements. Phantom ends up as one of the less memorable of the “major” Universal monster films.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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