In the 1800s France, aspiring opera singer, Christine Daaé (Teri Polo, Meet the Parents), begins taking singing lessons from a mysterious stranger in disguise. Unbeknownst to Christine, the masked tutor is the person known as The Phantom (Charles Dance, For Your Eyes Only), a disfigured man who roams the Paris Opera House.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“She sang for me tonight; she’s mine!”
How many versions of Gaston Leroux’s classic novel are out there? I’ve always loved the basic premise of Leroux’s story — a sort of Beauty & the Beast for adults — and I’m pretty sure I’ve watched at least a dozen adaptations. This TV version has always escaped me, though. I finally watched the whole thing and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The TV mini-series was directed by British director Tony Richardson (Tom Jones). The teleplay, written by Arthur Kopit and based on his unproduced stage musical Phantom, has more-opera-than-phantom, so this is closer to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular Broadway show than to silent star Lon Chaney’s 1925 horror masterpiece.
Kopit’s Phantom of the Opera reinterprets the title character as a tortured romantic hero. Interestingly, Kopit wrote the play before Webber’s famous musical debuted on the stage, so Kopit, not Webber, should be credited with the idea of turning Gaston Leroux’s legendary horror tale into a romantic melodrama with music.
Originally an NBC two-night event, Leroux’s classic benefits from the longer format. While a little slow in places, I appreciated the fact that characters and situations are nicely fleshed out. As I said before, I’ve seen many versions of the tale, but for my money, this is the one that best humanizes the iconic title character.
Another thing I liked about the mini-series is that it was filmed inside the Opéra Garnier in Paris, France. The old and luxurious structure does add to the show’s overall atmosphere of Gothic romanticism. Oscar-winning composer John Addison’s (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and A Bridge Too Far) incidental music is lovely, too (this is his last music score). In addition to all that, the ending is incredibly touching.
Charles Dance is an excellent Phantom. We never see his face, and Dance has to rely excursively on his voice and body to convey emotions. Dance is very tall and imposing (6′ 3″ to be exact) and has a wonderful voice, so I never felt that I needed to see his face to connect with him. Teri Polo is lovely as Christine.
In one of his last roles, Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz) shines as the Phantom’s friend and confidant — Lancaster’s old-school elegance is a welcome addition to the show. Ian Richardson (TV’s House of Cards) and Andréa Ferréol (The Last Metro) add some comic relief as the opera’s new managers. Jean-Pierre Cassel (Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines) plays Inspector Ledoux.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Strongly acted, emotionally and technically satisfying, Phantom of the Opera is a respectable adaptation of Leroux’s classic. There is no dramatic unmasking or Masquerade Ball, but this mini-series offers plenty of good moments to satisfy fans of the story. Recommended. Color, 185 minutes, Not Rated.
This is my contribution to The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon, hosted by The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society (PEPS).