The Phantom of the Opera (1989)
Director: Dwight H. Little
Starring: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy & Terence Harvey
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From the director of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, The Phantom of the Opera stars Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) in the timeless role as the tortured Phantom. After struggling opera singer Christine (Jill Schoelen) finds herself transported back to 1800s London, she reaches mass success under the mentoring of a musically tortured admirer. Consumed with completing his masterpiece, the Phantom commits unspeakable murders in honor of his obsessive love for Christine. Alex Hyde-White (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), Terence Harvey (From Hell) and Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live) co-star.
At the height of Robert Englund’s success portraying pop culture icon Freddy Krueger, his memorable turn as the murderous musical genius in The Phantom of the Opera would unfortunately be largely overshadowed. Stylish and darker than previous interpretations, The Phantom of the Opera has since morphed into a cult favorite amongst viewers with a penchant for its ode to Hammer horror style intertwined with its slasher movie level of violence. Co-starring husky-voiced beauty Jill Schoelen (The Stepfather, Popcorn), the Menahem Golan production utilized recycled sets in Budapest from Golan’s previous effort, Mack the Knife, to base its modern retelling of the Gaston Leroux tale. Rich with lush atmosphere and littered with local English talent, The Phantom of the Opera possesses an air of class lacking in the more popular slasher offerings of its time. Advertised by capitalizing on Englund’s success in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Director Dwight H. Little’s modernization retains its accustomed period setting with an infused contemporary framework, lending a noticeably more dreamlike quality reminiscent of its source material. Filling the shoes once worn by Lon Chaney Sr. and Claude Rains, Robert Englund conveys an earnest performance entirely his own. Injecting an occult backstory with the distressed musician making a deal with the devil, the Phantom’s iconic half-mask is substituted with a grisly, more 1980s-conscience replacement. In a fashion akin to Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the Phantom skins his victims to retrieve fresh samples to cover his decayed face from the judgmental world. Make-up effects maestro Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Child’s Play) delivers a Phantom well suited for its decade and spares no gore in the form of slit necks and decapitations.
Surrounded by an enjoyable supporting cast including an up and coming Bill Nighy and marking Molly Shannon’s film debut, The Phantom of the Opera pushes its level of violence unlike any other previous adaptation to wonderful measure. With the Phantom whisking his beloved Christine to his decrepit underground lair, a satisfying final struggle set amongst hundreds of burning candles ensues before reestablishing in modern day New York. Leaving itself open for a proposed sequel which sadly never came to fruition, The Phantom of the Opera has only improved with age, successfully telling a stylistically gothic tale reminiscent of decades past with an unashamed level of violence ripe for Gen-X appreciators.
Scream Factory presents The Phantom of the Opera with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Containing modest levels of flakes and specks, colors appear ripe with skin tones ranging from slightly soft to appropriately natural. Detail is handled well in the period costumes while, closeups of the Phantom stitching his victims‘ skin on his face are relayed with utmost clarity. Unsurprisingly, moments of bloodshed pop nicely offering a welcome contrast to several sequences. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is audible with zero distortion, unfortunately, Composer Misha Segal’s glorious score and other such operatic scenes feel slightly restricted and fall short of grander expectations. In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has been included for your listening pleasure. While, not considered one of Scream Factory’s collector’s edition releases, The Phantom of the Operaarrives with a splendid array of bonus content including an Audio Commentary with Director Dwight H. Little and Star Robert Englund. Next, Behind the Mask: The Making of The Phantom of the Opera is a thorough retrospective featuring new interviews with Director Dwight H. Little, Actors Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Screenwriter Duke Sadefur, Special Make-Up Designer Kevin Yagher, Special Make-Up Effects Artists John Carl Buechler, Everett Burrell, John Vulich and Composer Misah Segal (37:43). Interviewees discuss the Budapest shoot, the recycled sets and the proposed New York based sequel that never happened. Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:53), TV Spot (0:31), Radio Spots (two included), Still Gallery (65 in total) and a More from Scream Factory reel featuring trailers for Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh,Phantom of the Paradise and From a Whisper to a Scream round out the supplements.
Not nearly as applauded as Englund’s rendezvous on Elm Street, The Phantom of the Opera has amassed a loyal following over its 25 years and rightfully so. Doused in timeless production value and blending the romantically gothic with the savagely horrific, The Phantom of the Opera stands as one of the most pleasing and ambitious adaptations of the iconic tale. A personal favorite of late 80s horror offerings, Scream Factory’s high-definition treatment sings a rewarding note with respectable technical specifications and an exceptional assortment of special features. Grossly underrated and gorgeously shot, The Phantom of the Opera makes its long-awaited curtain call on Blu-ray, worthy of inclusion in every horror fan’s collection.
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