Of course with the Halloween Season behind here once again, it’s always a compelling time to revisit “The Phantom of the Opera”. As previously mentioned by many others before me, there are countless adaptations of the Gaston Leroux story that range from Movies, Musicals, Radio Dramas, TV specials, Sequel Books and there’s even a Video Game based on the story. The list is endless to choose from in which you want to visit the tale of the Opera Ghost and his love for the young Christine Daae. While I’ve covered some of the more famous adaptations a couple years ago, there’s still plenty to choose from for this year that are prime for the taking.
With that in mind, I’m going to go with Argento.
As it turns out, the well known Italian Horror director took a spin on creating an adaptation of the Phantom in the late 1990’s. This was made during his “past his prime” period so it’s frequently lumped in with his lesser quality work but some of those has been treated unfairly and aren’t as bad as everyone claims. Let’s see which category it will fall under for both the Phantom and Argento.
Synopsis: A mysterious figure lurking below the Paris Opera House who was raised by rats has taken an interest in young understudy Christine Daae but she also becomes the subject of interest for Raoul De Chagny who must soon choose to accept the affection of either the strange man under the Opera House in his underground world or the Baron from the normal realm.
Right off the bat, you can tell that this is quite the loose adaptation of the original source. For instance, our Phantom isn’t a hideously deformed man who hides from the sight of the world and is a musical genius Instead, he’s an abandoned baby who was raised by rats underneath the Opera House and has obtained psychic powers to communicate with Christine and he becomes a pretty ruthless killer who murders anyone who comes down to his lair since he has hidden treasure within it. Plus, there’s a few scenes where he ends up keeping Christine in his lair and ends up with a…less than favorable sex scene by force.
Obviously, this will leaving asking one simple question:
Basically, the whole film gives the basics of the story while drastically changing many different elements with the plot and characters that ends up fairing over more as a 19th century slasher film that coincidentally has “The Phantom of the Opera” stamped on it.
In regards to all of the characters in the film, they aren’t as interesting as some the previous performances before them. Christine is just there to be the center of attention for the Phantom and Raoul to fight over throughout the film and is a bit clueless as to her personality. One minute she hates the Phantom and loves Raoul but then she’ll just switch teams and go all over the Phantom (despite the fact she was raped by him in the movie) and it’s very jarring. Raoul doesn’t do much in the film aside from falling in love with Christine and trying to take down the Phantom in the end of the film. Everyone else in the film isn’t very note worthy and doesn’t have much to do in the film aside from work through some poorly acted performances that end us unintentional comic relief. The only character that’s the closest to the original source, which is always the case in nearly every film, is the prima donna Carlotta. She remains the same attention wanted diva who thinks she’s the best singer in the entire Opera and it seems to be the only thing that the film gets right for the characters. I expected there to be changes to the characters but nothing as drastic as the film presented.
In terms of it being a Horror film unrelated to the Phantom, it’s pretty mediocre at best. The story of a man raised by rats and developing psychic powers may seem like a bit of a stretch to anybody (unless you go for the absolutely goofy) and even then it doesn’t dive into it that much and just stick to being a slasher film that has the Opera thrown into the mix. Sure, the deaths are pretty graphic, which Argento movies tend to be, but that’s all the film has going for it since the acting is pretty cheesy and the plot ended up being a mess. So even on its own, it doesn’t bod over well.
It’s a pretty weird movie. It barely touches upon anything regarding the Phantom and it falls flat in so many ways, it’s amazing that he thought this was good enough to put out. If you want a creative Argento movie that relies on this story, I’d go with his earlier film Opera. It strangely works as a slasher based adaption of the Phantom story that is far better and more likely to grab your attention than this one would.