The Phantom Of The Opera Blu-ray review

Review Dave Adamson 30 May 2014 - 06:42

He was Freddy, now he's the Phantom. Dave reviews the new release of Robert Englund's Phantom Of The Opera...

Long before Andrew Lloyd Webber would turn the story into a well-known musical, and well before Joel Schumacher would turn the musical into an appalling big-screen adaptation, The Phantom of the Opera was a gothic novel that had already seen adaptation a number of times - Lon Chaney, Claude Rains, Herbert Lom and Julian Sands had all taken a shot at the role as had Robert Englund, most famous for portraying Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare On Elm Street films.

The 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera sees Englund as Erik Destler, the man behind the mask, who has made a deal with the Devil so that the world will love his music but, as is oft the case with such deals, must suffer a downside - he is hideously disfigured and must hide in the shadows.

Christine Day, talented stage singer and looking for a break, comes across a piece of music to use for an upcoming audition and, due to an overly staged accident, goes back in time to 19th century London and is taken under the wing of the mysterious Phantom of the Opera.

From his murky cavern, he manipulates a whole production into allowing Christine to perform in the lead role, disposing of anyone who should criticise him. Such activities, however, draw the attention of the heroic Richard and two detectives who, in order to uncover the mystery and rescue Christine, must come face to face with The Phantom of the Opera!

Every once in a while, it’s possible to stumble upon a film that, despite many flaws, is quite engaging. For all the problems, The Phantom of the Opera is just such a film.

Robert Englund performs with a degree more conviction than the film probably deserves. Englund plays Erik to perfection, as a conflicted genius forced to hide from the world and unable to be loved, despite only wanting to love. His acts of violence are acts of self-preservation as he sets about keeping his secret and ensuring that Christine has the limelight, fulfilling his curse of music and despair.

Whilst the story may be filled with gore and sadistic overtones, it never really escapes the limits of late 80s horror, with distinctly soap opera and “scream queen” performances from many of the cast members. Overall, however, it stays away from the romanticised versions of the Leroux’s story with which many will be familiar; Destler is vindictive and brutal, instead of a character to be pitied.

There’s sequences in the film that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, reminding viewers of that series that Matthew Holness captured the essence of 80s horror to near perfection. Whilst these sequences were probably thought artistic when the film was made, now they just appear awkward and pretentious - perhaps in the hands of better film makers, they would have had the desired effect. Instead, what we’re greeted with is overblown sound effects, slow motion and overacting.

On the topic of pretension - the 19th century setting isn’t bad, but it’s let down by the 20th century bookend that takes away from the gothic horror and shoehorns in a not-so-surprising twist that could have lead to a sequel. There really is no point to the “gone back in time” angle in the story; it could have worked had it been set in either century, so wasting time with this just takes away from the spectacle of the film.

There are some fantastic moments in ways that only 80s American horror could do - the revelation of Destler’s true face is wonderfully handled, as are a few of the gorier moments. The visual effects are visceral in nature, with plenty of blood flowing where necessary and some creative use of prosthetics. There’s nothing truly stomach churning, despite rats eating people, beheadings and gory stabbing.

The Phantom of the Opera is a film that is equal parts interesting and messy.

The Disc

The disc itself is an strange one: despite being filmed in 1.85:1, it appears that the Blu-ray release is presented in 1.33:1, with a 30Mbps and higher bit rate. The stereo soundtrack manages to remain clear throughout.

Occasionally, the picture is soft, though it’s not clear whether this is because of the master used for this Blu-ray or an artistic decision.

Things aren’t made much clearer by the complete lack of features on the BluRay, leaving us with a barebones presentation that is woefully inadequate given the audience for this type of film is likely to be horror film fans.

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