DARIO ARGENTO’S IL FANTASMA DELL’OPERA (THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA)-Italy-99 Mins. 1998
Julian Sands as The Phantom in Dario Argento’s Il fantasma dell’opera (The Phantom of the Opera)
Asia Argento as Christine Daaé in Dario Argento’s Il fantasma dell’opera (The Phantom of the Opera)
Written by Gérard Brach and Dario Argento
Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux
English adaptation by Giorgina Caspari
Having watched Dario Argento’s laughably pathetic re-telling of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula I must say I was a tad bit gun-shy about watching his adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. I almost didn’t watch because I didn’t want to be burdened with the knowledge that was two authors turning over in their graves. Alas, I bit the bullet and while it is safe to say that Stoker is still turning over like a rotisserie chicken Leroux has flipped over once, possibly twice, and gone back to sleep.
Argento’s The Phantom of the Opera is a faithful adaptation of the original story-for the most part. It is still the story of the Phantom (usually named Eric but who is given no name in this film) who lives beneath the Paris Opera house and of the series of unfortunate ‘accidents’ that he causes in the name of hearing his love, Christine (Asia Argento), sing the lead on the stage of the opera house. Several gruesome deaths later, including a falling chandelier onto a packed audience, and the Phantom (Julian Sands) gets his wish.
It is when Argento strays away from the source material that the film suffers. The Phantom is a normal-looking guy in this one; or as normal as you can get with Julian Sands. The Phantom is a sort of ‘rat whisperer’ and sends the vermin out to do his nefarious biddings. Having read The Phantom of the Opera I don’t recall there being a scene where we would possibly hear a reprisal of “Ben” by Michael Jackson. I also don’t recall the Phantom and Christine engaging in coitus in the book but nonetheless there it is on the screen. This leads me to comment on the fact that Argento has no qualms with either accentuating his daughter’s breasts and nipples or showing them off altogether. As lovely a pair of ta-tas as Miss Argento has I can’t help being more than a little disturbed by the whole thing.
Julian Sands is good as the Phantom considering that with lines like, “Your perfume, your female smell; it flows through my veins like the melody of the rolling ocean”, he doesn’t have much to work with. Asia Argento does the best she can with the role of Christine but with the limits of the character and of her range she doesn’t have very much luck.
In closing I would have to say that the best way to approach The Phantom of the Opera is to remember that A. Dario Argento has made much better films that this-Suspiria being one of them; and B. The absolute worst (Dracula 3D) is yet to come.
Rumour has it that Dario Argento’s original cut of the film ran almost an hour longer and that the version which was finally released, has been heavily re-cut and changed by the producers to assure the film’s appeal to wider audiences.
The role of the Phantom was first intended for John Malkovich.
Despite the art work on the theatrical poster showing the Phantom’s mask, this is the only version which the Phantom does not actually wear a mask.
Julian Sands also appears in Warlock and Arachnophobia.
Asia Argento also appears in Land of the Dead and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.