In 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:
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.
This lavishly produced TV mini-series was directed by Oscar-winning 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 immensely popular Broadway show than to Lon Chaney’s unforgettable 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 turning the famous horror tale into a romantic melodrama with music.
Originally a 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 title character.
The ending is incredibly touching. Another thing I liked about the mini-series is that it was filmed inside the Opéra Garnier in Paris. The old and luxurious structure does add to the show’s overall atmosphere of Gothic romanticism. Oscar-winning composer John Addison’s (Tom Jones and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) incidental music is lovely too (this is his last music score).
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 fine as Christine.
In one of his last roles, Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) 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).