Category Archives: Films Released in 1962
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA-United Kingdom-1962
Directed by Terence Fisher
Screenplay by John Elder
Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux
Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra”, or “The Phantom of the Opera”, has been told in many forms over the years. There was, of course, the classic 1925 film starring Lon Chaney, Sr. as Erik and Mary Philbin as Christine. Then there is the 1943 edition starring Claude Rains and Susanna Foster. Even director Dario Argento has aimed his directorial vision at this tragic tale.
But it is the 1962 Hammer Films edition of the film that I remember best. Not because I remember seeing the film; until now I had never seen the film. I remember it because I was not allowed to watch when it first premiered on television as the movie of the week for Saturday night. The film premiered in theaters in August of 1962; so I can only guess that I may have been 3 or 4 years old when it made its TV debut. Thinking I was too young, my parents sent me away to bed. However, they didn’t bother turning down the volume. I remember hearing Christine’s beautiful voice as she sang for the Phantom (Herbert Lom, “The Dead Zone”). I remember that the Phantom would tell her that she would sing ‘only for me’. Finally, my memory is hearing the announcer’s voice saying ‘We continue now with…The Phantom of the Opera.’ I knew that one day I would see this film and that I would wonder if I would be as scared to see it as my parents thought I would be. Honestly speaking, that is not the case at all.
Horror films are filled with creatures of all kinds. Many of them are evil and deserve our disdain. They are hideous to behold and are the stuff of our nightmares. As for the Phantom of the Opera, that is not so. He is a man to be pitied. He had a gift and it was stolen from him. He lashed out in anger and was punished. Here is a man who merely wanted his songs to be sung and his music to be heard. For Hammer’s Phantom, the monster is not the man behind the mask, but the cruel and unscrupulous Lord D’Arcy (Michael Gough in a deliciously over the top performance). He is a thief, a scoundrel of the lowest morals. He is the most inhuman of monsters because he is all too human in the first place. The Phantom hides a beautiful soul behind a hideous mask. Lord D’arcy is hideous through and through; no mask in the world could hide such corruption.
Looking back, I’m actually glad my parents sent me off to bed. My impressionable young mind may not have understood that the bad guy is not always who we think it is.
The film was originally written for Cary Grant, who wanted to do a horror film. The Phantom’s character was rewritten as a more tragic figure, with the dwarf (played here by Ian Wilson) doing the actual violence, to suit Grant’s image. Grant declined the part (possibly unhappy with the watered down character) and it went to Lom.
The mask was made on the fly just before shooting out of cloth, tape, string and paint.
At one point, Christopher Lee was seriously considered for the Phantom part.
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