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The Phantom of the Opera (December 4/04)

The filmmakers behind The Phantom of the Opera seem to have been forced into distancing themselves from Gaston Leroux's famed novel, judging from the disclaimer found on the back of the DVD ("this motion picture is not associated with any current or prior stage production or motion picture of the same title") in addition to the fact that the film's script is based upon another script (huh?) But in spite of a few changes here and there (most notably the explanation for how the phantom became disfigured), this is clearly an adaptation of Leroux's book.

The movie opens in the present day, where we meet Christine (Jill Schoelen) - an aspiring singer who is preparing to audition for a substantial role in an upcoming opera. Something goes awry during the performance, though, and Christine is magically transported to 19th century London. There, she finds herself playing understudy to a spoiled diva and avoiding the advances of a mysterious phantom (played by, of course, Robert Englund).

It's difficult to know just who The Phantom of the Opera is meant to appeal to - certainly not fans of the source material, who will be turned off by the extreme violence peppered through the film. And though the film's been marketed as a horror flick, gorehounds won't find much here worth embracing (the slow pace is enough to turn off even the most ardent scary movie aficionado). In terms of the film's bloodier sequences, the majority of them feel as though they've been shoehorned in to appeal to the built-in Englund audience. This is particularly true of a sequence that finds the phantom taking down a group of thugs that tried to mug him, and spouting a silly one-liner before killing the last of them (after being told that he's a thing from Hell, the phantom retorts, "and you, sir, are Hell-bound!").

That Englund gives an over-the-top performance doesn't come as much of a surprise, considering he's best known for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Englund seems determined to turn the phantom into another sequel-spawning character, though it's hard to imagine this is what Leroux had in mind when he first put pen to paper.

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents The Phantom of the Opera with a crisp letterboxed transfer, along with the film's trailer.
© David Nusair