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The Phantom Of The Opera (1962)

Hammer's Phantom Of The Opera suffers the same fate of all productions of the tale, in that the original source material just isn't that exciting.

The story's not really horror - it's melodrama, and despite a few typical gory Hammer flourishes, that's all this film is, too. It's important to realise, though, that Hammer's Phantom shouldn't be dismissed outright - it looks fantastic and Michael Gough's performance more than makes up for any slackening in pace. And he's not even playing the titular fiend.

After a classy start - the titles rolling over the Phantom's single eye - we're treated to the beginning of Gough's full-on smirkathon, as he auditions young actresses for the lead role in the latest production he stole of his supposedly dead friend. When he murmurs: "She's a VERY lovely girl..." we know it's not just going to be her arias he's admiring later on.

The film (like many a-Hammer) is absolutely bursting with interesting character study and Victorian cliche (see Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde for the ultimate in cobbled streets, grimey urchins and chim-chiminee sweeps). Michael Ripper appears at one point (under extreme make-up) as a cabby, and the old women in the theatre's lost property section are a scream - Harry Enfield's Old Gits 20 years before he'd even thought of teaming up with Paul Whitehouse (and stealing all his mate's best ideas. Hmmm...)

There's also Patrick Troughton as the rat catcher: "They make a luvverly pie, y'know..." Who's own little cameo is cut drastically short by a knife in the eye.

Herbert Lom, however, might as well not be in it. His Phantom is pretty lacklustre, skulking in shadows and letting an evil dwarf do all the dirty work. Apparently, Cary Grant was interested in the role originally (how bizarre would that have been?), his squeaky clean image necessitating the writing-in of someone to actually do the murders for him. But in the end he pulled out. Tosser.

Director: Terence Fisher Writer(s): Gaston Leroux (novel), Anthony Hinds (screenplay)

Cast: Herbert Lom - The Phantom (Professor Petrie), Heather Sears - Christine Charles, Thorley Walters - Lattimer, Michael Gough - Lord Ambrose d'Arcy, Edward de Souza - Harry Hunter, Miles Malleson - Cabby, Marne Maitland - Xavier, Martin Miller - Rossi, Miriam Karlin - Charwoman, Harold Goodwin - Bill, John Harvey - Vickers, Liane Aukin - Maria, Sonya Cordeau - Yvonne, Leila Forde - Teresa, Renee Houston - Mrs. Tucker, Geoffrey L'Oise - Frenchman, Liam Redmond, Michael Ripper - Longfaced Cabby, Patrick Troughton - The Rat Catcher, Ian Wilson - Dwarf

 

Last updated: February 25, 2010

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