Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles If you go to the auditorium of the Palais Garnier in Paris, France, you'll notice that there's this giant chandelier hanging right over the middle of the orchestra section. So on May 20th, 1896, during a performance a counterweight to this giant chandelier fell right through the ceiling and killed a concierge during a performance on on her first day work. Yeah. Some odd years later a journalist turned novelist named Gaston Leroux took this incident and went "Hey, what if there was some nefarious being behind this whole chandelier thing. What if it wasn't a counterweight? What if it was the entire chandelier that fell? What would motivate such a nefarious being. I'm gonna do all this research and write this ballin' mystery novel and it's gonna be great! It's gonna be a classic of modern literature and it..." was not at all. It's not. It's not great literature; but! it certainly merits discussion. 'Phantom of the Opera' is no 'Les Miserables'. It was not a sensation in its day and yet it has spawned countless movies, musicals, comic books, children's books, TV shows, ice-capades, re-imaginings including but not limited to 'Phantom of the Megaplex', 'Phantom of the Ritz', 'The Phantom of Hollywood', 'Phantom of the Mall', 'Phantom of the Paradise', Phantom on Ice'! Stage versions that are not the Andrew Lloyd-Webber version, dozens of novel spin-offs, children's books, graphic novels... For such a nothing little book it's had a lot of adaptations. But the character of the Phantom varies a lot from really, genuinely engaging to the most boring thing that's ever dried your brain to a fine powder. He's evil. He's sympathetic. He's the villain. He's the antihero. Sometimes he's even the hero and owing to my long history of "Phantom fandom" I could probably do a twenty-six part Ken Burns-style epic on all of the many facets of this book and its adaptations and who influenced what and what now, but, difficult as it is for me not to go on? or even tangents this episode is about the character of Erik, and I'm not going to lie and say a lot of my criticisms don't stem from a nerd rage standpoint - they totally do - but here we go; instead of a comprehensive 30 hour dissection, which I could totally do, we're going to keep it to two parts Erik, The Phantom of the Opera before the musical and after. The original novel is... pulpy. It's told from Leroux's point of view as a man who's trying to piece together this mystery that happened thirty years after the fact and though you - the modern reader - know from cultural osmosis that, yes, there is a Phantom, the first half of this book is basically a mystery with a tonne of red herrings that are actually pretty tedious from a storytelling standpoint. Who could the Phantom be? Is it the stagehand? Is it the rat catcher? Is it this Persian fellow who's sneaking about all the time? And about halfway through the book we find out that yes, there is indeed a dude who calls himself the Opera Ghost and that it's his basically full-time job. Literally, he even extorts the opera managers to the tune of about 20,000 francs a month. Mr. Phantom goes by the name of Erik; no surname. He's like Madonna. Erik is described as having the ugliest face of any person who's ever lived. He basically looks like a death's head; sort of a living corpse. He compensates for this by being an amazing genius at everything he's a master musician. He's a ventriloquist. He can throw his voice. He's a genius architect. He's a master assassin, and he has the most beautiful voice of any man who's ever lived. What can't he do? Well, turns out he's not so good to the ladies, and is a huge drama queen like "Oh my mama didn't love me, I sleep in a casket, I have a literal torture chamber in my house for some reason. Hey, young girl I'm gonna kidnap you and force you to live in my lair until you fall in love with me; that seems reasonable." 'The Phantom of the Opera' is a 'Beauty and the Beast' tale, but it has more in common with the myth of Hades and Persephone Erik is frequently compared to death-like things in the novel, and he quite literally lives in an underworld and he absconds with this innocent young girl, a novice singer in the Opera named Christine. Speaking to her from behind her mirrors in her dressing room he tells her "Hey, I'm a literal angel sent to you by your dead father to train you to sing," which she, being super religious, is like "Okay, that sounds legit." So she's pretty disappointed to find out that he's actually kind of like a crazy deformed person. But Erik is also super-jealous of Christine's childhood sweetheart, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, and the novel comes to a head when Raoul and the Persian descend into the Phantom's underworld to rescue Christine only immediately to get oopsy-daisy caught in Erik's torture chamber, which he has! And Erik thinks this is great! More to blackmail Christine with, he's like "Hey, girl, either you marry me or I'm gonna kill these two and blow up the entire opera and both of us." What a prize. So let's talk about Erik's character arc, which is the most important aspect of the story to me and the thing that most of the adaptations screw the pooch on. Christine says "Okay, I'll marry you," which obviously she really does not want to do, but will do this incredibly selfless thing if it means saving other people's lives. But the fact that she does this kind of does him in, and she even kisses him because she really does feel sorry for him. And so Erik - surprised and completely done in by her selflessness - lets her Raoul and the Persian go. She marries Raoul and Eric dies alone, and the book ends with the author contending that despite his deeds Erik was not an inherently bad person and could have been a great person if the world hadn't been so shitty to him and that he did not deserve to be demonised but there were many circumstances, some within his control, but many not, that made him the way he was; that he wasn't a monster, but a flawed human. So that's actually pretty sophisticated moral for a turn-of-the-century pulp horror novel. Let's see what Hollywood does with that. When you think of Universal Monsters and 'Phantom of the Opera', this is that version. In fact as far as "monster Phantom" goes - the Lloyd-Webber musical he's misunderstood sex god so we're not counting that - Lon Chaney's is the definitive version. This was actually not the first film version. There was one in 1916, but, as is the case with about 90% of all of silent films, this one was lost and we don't really know all that much about it. So for the purposes of this little YouTube video 1925 is the first movie. Like Book Erik, Cheney's Erik is highly emotional and really just... a little too upfront with his feelings. Oh, good that's... that's really appealing and she then immediately runs on in the casket he sleeps in and he's like: "Yep. It is what it is baby." This movie isn't just important as an adaptation of 'Phantom of the Opera', but is also a seminal piece of pop culture and Hollywood history in the horror genre, not to mention a landmark in makeup and effects work, and well worth checking out. The scene where Christine first unmasks Erik and then he comes at her - critics at the time reported hearing screams in the screening and some patrons even fainted or left the theatre because they were so horrified by Lon Chaney's makeup. Although that weird little cloth thing on his mask does, er, detract from his menace a bit. I would call it the best of the movie adaptations except for that ending. Early in the novel the corpse of a stagehand named Bouquet who'd been garroted is found in the cellar. In the movie Bouquet's got a brother and there's an obviously hastily added in: "Hey, this guy killed my brother and I found out where he lives off screen somewhere" ending. Like in the novel Christine's like "Please let them go, I'll do whatever." And Erik's like "Okay." And he does let them go, and then when Christine's patting on Raoul and Erik's over here kinda grumpy and then busts in the angry mob and... Suddenly there's a chase scene. And we're on a wild carriage ride; dang! So obviously in the book Erik is a lot more sympathetic. But his rival Raoul is a lot less so; he is a whiny self-centred little baby. In the movie Raoul is more of a conventional, dashing straightforward movie hero, and Erik is a monster. Both of them become less complex and that element in the original novel that contemplates on Erik's humanity and what made him into a monster... "Eh, screw that." But even so there's a great case to make for Lon Chaney's Erik as pure and simple the best performance. He walks this great fine line of sympathetic, terrifying, childlike eccentric and all through facial expression and body language. He's really genuinely horrifying and yet he's so expressive. Except for this stupid ending. "'kay guys, I've got a grenade. Yeah. I'm just kidding. Haha. Hey, we have fun... Arghh..." It was also originally going to end like the book and Lon Chaney himself was purportedly not wild about this change but, you know, it's early Hollywood and villainous characters aren't allowed to have like, you know, redemption arcs or growth, or depth, so - bye Erik. Next. SHAN: [*speaking Mandarin*] This movie is considered one of the greats of early Chinese cinema. It was lost to the ages during the Cultural Revolution and was only found again in 1998. This one is a first in the trend of the phantom getting disfigured after the fact rather than from birth which I take slight umbrage with but we'll get to that. The Phantom in this one is a dude named Song Danping and Christine in this version appears to be a dude? His name is Sung, and promises to train him so that he can sing to Song's lady love who has been driven mad because she thinks Song is dead. So Song teaches Sung to sing. I swear I'm not making this up. This movie has a big subplot about a leftist revolutionary movement and most of the romance story-line is told in flashbacks. Song's lady love is not a singer. Instead she's in what appears to be a madhouse. Song is also a lot more sympathetic than the Chaney version - or even the book version for that matter - as it really plays up the romance angle and his tragic fall. "Hey, the Phantom was hot at one point." Although, true to form, our Phantom is a huge drama queen. MENGHE: [*speaking Mandarin*] And I know this is pretty much par for the course as far as acting in early Chinese cinema goes but, heh, I'm just saying it works where the Phantom is concerned. MENGHE: [*speaking Mandarin*] Feelings! But even with our more sympathetic Phantom, the movie still ends like the fucking Lon Chaney movie. And the Christine analogue ends up with Sung. But it doesn't matter now, nothing matters except you me, Christine. Now you'll sing all you want. But only for me. LINDSAY: This was Universal's big, lavish, big-budgeted remake of the 1925 version. But like its rewrite-addled predecessor... You can kind of see the cracks. Claude Rains plays Erique Claudin, who's a retiring star violinist at the Opera. In the original screenplay he was gonna be Christine's father, and that's why rather than teaching her to sing himself he spends his life savings on singing lessons for her. Knowing this makes the movie make more sense, but they cut out the father angle, so instead he's just this like weird, old guy who's oddly fixated on this one girl with no real context as to why. RAINS: You weren't ill, were you? You're not in any trouble?" But this Phantom also has a tragic life and he has a super sympathetic backstory, up until he up and murders a guy over a misunderstanding. And then we get the acid in the face and hot-damn with the crazy. I suppose the implication was that in this version he was always kind of on the edge and then here was the snapping point. So when, towards the end, he gets Christine down in his lair. It's like: RAINS: I warned them. I told them there'd be death and destruction if they didn't let you sing. LINDSAY: Well, that escalated quickly. But then the focus shifts entirely. After the acid sploosh Erik isn't in the movie much at all, and for the most part we follow the not one, but two Raoul's trying to figure out what's going on. Why is he so obsessed with this girl he's had basically no contact with? Hmm? There's a lot of reading between the lines with this Phantom's motivation. If he is her dad, then why is he not in her life? If not, what's his deal? Does he just think she's cute? What made him snap and kill that guy over basically nothing? Does he have a history of stuff like this? And that's why he lives alone and tries to stay out of Christine's life. In the end, the movie just ends abruptly with 'death by falling rocks' and everyone just kind of shrugs and moves on. In the end, I'm left wondering what the filmmakers were even going for. Next. LOM: I shall teach you. When you sing it will be only for me. LINDSAY: This version is trying to be scary and it's... Err... It's boring. It's really boring. There's the theft of his music during / after his disfigurement, which - yep, once again Only where in the 1943 version it was a perceived theft, this time it is a legit theft by the Opera. Also, like in the '43 version we get not one but two Raouls only this time one of the Raouls is a bad guy. One's the dashing yet boring love interest; the other is just kind of, you know: rapey. And I guess he's there to make the Phantom look more sympathetic by comparison. See, the Phantom may be a total jerk-wad but at least he's not an attempted rapist like this guy so... LOM: You are dining with Ambrose D'Arcy tonight. Be warned. He's a vile and vicious man. LINDSAY: "Don't let him be creepy and possessive. Let me be creepy and possessive." This is also the only version where the chandelier fall is an accident and rather than causing it. He pushes Christine to safety, sacrificing himself, and that's how the movie ends. So it's interesting to note that of the ones we've covered, the American versions all have a monstrous villainous Erik getting punished at the end and the non American ones have a more sympathetic complex version; this one is British. That's not to say a more complex take isn't doable by American filmmakers, but maybe it just needs to be done outside of the studio system. FINLEY: Never sing my music again. Not here, not anywhere. Do you understand? Never again. 'Phantom of the Paradise' takes place in a sort of surreal alternate universe, at a club called The Paradise. It's one of Brian De Palma's earliest movies. It's a musical and it's probably the best of all of the Phantom movies. And it's also probably my favorite De Palma; easy. Say what you want about 'Phantom of the Paradise', it knows what it's about. This movie is in for a penny, in for a pound. FINLEY: Swan stole my music and framed me! In a way, it's more of an adaptation of 'Faust' than 'Phantom of the Opera'. 'Faust' being the opera in the original novel that Christine makes her debut in. Like the 1943 and 1962 versions this one has the theft of my beautiful music, and then I got disfigured thing going on. Unlike in those versions there's also a selling my soul to Satan thing going on. And yes, this is another fucking version where he becomes disfigured during the plot. His name is Winslow. He's basically if Elton John and Leonard Cohen had a kid. It's debatable whether there is a Raoul in this version. Let's, let's go with... no.