Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: John Elder
Cast: Herbert Lom, Heather Sears, Edward de Souza, Thorley Walters, Michael Gough, Harold Goodwin, Martin Miller, Liane Aukin, Sonya Cordeau, Marne Maitland, Miriam Karlin, Patrick Troughton, Renee Houston, Keith Pyott, John Harvey, Michael Ripper, Miles Malleson, and Ian Wilson
Composer: Edwin Astley
Release Date: 6/25/1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After selling his music for a pittance, a composer known as Professor Petrie (Herbert Lom) is plagiarized by Lord Ambrose D’Arcy (Michael Gough)—unscrupulous director of the London Opera House. While seeking revenge, however, Prof. Petrie suffers a disfiguring wound and goes into hiding. Years later, Prof. Petrie—now living as a shadowy figure within the Opera House—attempts to harness the talent of a young singer named Christine Charles (Heather Sears), with a tragic outcome.
Forgoing much of the atmosphere and suspense that viewers associate with the original story, Hammer’s The Phantom of the Opera is a dull and uninspired offering. Nevertheless, those of a sensitive inclination may appreciate this film for its relatable, if not altogether innocent, main character.
Despite borrowing the majority of its premise from the 1943 film starring Claude Rains, Hammer’s The Phantom of the Opera provides many unique and intriguing updates on the source narrative by Gaston Leroux. Highlights include the addition of a hunchbacked assistant, a creepy lair within the sewers of London, and a spooky rendition of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor—elements that serve to enhance the horror aspect of this production.
Lacking the violent tendencies and gruesome visage of his counterpart played by Lon Chaney, Herbert Lom’s version of the Phantom may evoke strong criticism—especially from Gothic horror enthusiasts—for his tame and unassuming nature.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Also problematic is the fate of Lord Ambrose d’Arcy, who, aside from his ghastly encounter with the Phantom, goes entirely unpunished for his vile and tyrannical behavior.
Depicting Professor Petrie as a victim of poverty, plagiarism, and accidental injury, this film offers a sympathetic and compassionate twist on the Phantom character, who, in the climactic scene, sacrifices his own life to save Christine from a falling chandelier—unlike in Leroux’s novel and its 1925 film adaptation, where the Phantom himself uses the chandelier as an instrument of murder.
The Phantom of the Opera is a mediocre installment in Hammer’s lineup of horror films. Though occasionally clever in its presentation, this entry may invite ridicule for its innocuous rendition of the Phantom—here overshadowed by the cruelty of his own accomplice.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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