This version of “The Phantom of the Opera” was the second remake of the oft filmed classic tale was produced by England’s Hammer Studios who remade most of the old Universal B&W classics of the 30s and 40s.
An Opera based on the life of Joan of Arc is being performed at the Opera house. Several mysterious unexplainable events have taken place. An apparent murder scares off the lead singer and she is replaced by a young aspiring singer, Christine (Heather Sears). A shadowy figure known as The Phantom (Herbert Lom) lurking among the shadows takes a personal interest in the girl. Also taking an interest in her is lecherous Lord Ambrose D’Arcy (Michael Gough) the womanizing entrepreneur. Coming to her aid is the Opera’s producer (Edward de Souza) the token hero of the piece.
Needless to say the girl winds up in the Phantom’s underground hideaway where she is kept captive until his terrible secret is revealed.
Lom as the Phantom is more of a supporting player rather than the star. The Phantom is played more as a sympathetic character rather than a menace. The real villain of the piece is Gough who steals the film as the unscrupulous D’Arcy. There is also an evil dwarf (Ian Wilson). Lom’s makeup as The Phantom is not revealed until the end of the film and then we only get a brief glimpse. It could have been used to much greater effect.
Others in the cast include Thorley Walters as Latimer, the manager of the Opera house and Miles Malleson in a nice bit as the cabby in the park. True Hammer Horror fans will spot Hammer regular Michael Ripper almost unrecognizable as the first cabby who drives the hero and heroine home from the restaurant.
Unfortunately, the producers have left many loose ends. What happens to D’Arcy who is last seen running from the room in which he has just met The Phantom? And the Dwarf? He is literally left hanging at the film’s end. Do the baddies get away with it?
The original theatrical version of the film runs 84 minutes. There is also a 98 minute version which adds scenes involving Scotland Yard detectives investigating the goings on at the Opera, a flashback sequence which repeats in its entirety a scene shown earlier and an attempted murder of D’Arcy’s mistress all of which add nothing to the film.
No one will ever better the Lon Chaney 1925 silent version of this story but you have to give Hammer credit for at least trying to tell it with a few new twists.