Friday, 25 September 2015
Phantom of the Opera (1943) (4 Stars)
The novel "Phantom of the Opera", written by Gaston Leroux, has been filmed nine times, in 1925, 1943, 1962, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998 and 2004, each time with slight differences to the story. This is the 1943 version, intended by Universal Studios to be a crossover between their horror films and their musicals. There are extended musical scenes, but today most film fans would only refer to it as a horror film.
The film was made in 1941, but its release was delayed for the most ridiculous of reasons. It was thought that the lead actress, 17-year-old Susanna Foster, showed too much cleavage in some of the scenes. It was necessary to remove some scenes and replace other scenes with different takes, mostly long shots which didn't highlight her breasts.
The 1943 film, unlike all other versions of the story, has a love square, if that's the correct expression for a woman being the object of desire of three different men. Maybe it should be called a love pyramid. The young singer Christine DuBois is dating the police inspector Raoul Daubert, but she is being pursued by her fellow singer Anatole Garron, and the phantom himself is also obsessed with her. In this version the phantom isn't an opera singer, he's Erique Claudin, a former violinist at the Paris Opera House.
Interestingly, in the original script Erique isn't Christine's secret admirer, he's her father. A scene was filmed in which he revealed his relationship to her, but it was removed, probably because Susanna showed too much cleavage. The remaining scenes suggest a love interest, even though this wasn't intended while filming.
In the book and the other film adaptations the opera "Faust" is used, but it wasn't possible for this film. The opera's copyright holder lived in France, and it wasn't possible to contact him because of the German occupation. New musical pieces were written for the film.
I can't compare the film with the other adaptations because this is the only version I've ever seen. The acting is competent by all the main actors. There's a good mix between horror, comedy and music. Susanna Foster has an amazingly powerful voice, despite her young age. She's famous for one note she sang in the film, a G above high C. Amusingly, Anatole backs away as she hits this note, as if afraid that his ears will burst.