The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Poster


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  • When PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was shot in 1925, there were three cuts of the film: two preview cuts and the final, general release version. The first, completely directed by Rupert Julian, was first shown in January of 1925 in Los Angeles, and was the closest to the original novel, most notably, the ending in which the Phantom dies of a broken heart at his organ. Due to unfavorable reviews, subsequent footage was shot and the film was re-worked by western/comedy director Edward Sedgwick. Extra material included a Russian count played by Ward Crane, duelling Norman Kerry. The ending was reshot, with the Phantom being stormed by the mob. This version was previewed in San Francisco in April of 1925. Both of these versions are now lost. The final, general release cut was premiered in September of 1925 and deleted most of the Sedgewick material, except for the ending. This version only survives in 16mm prints that were distributed by Universal in the 1920s and 1930s. Fewer home video editions source from these prints, but this version is available.

    In 1929, 40% of the film was re-shot with available cast members (excluding Chaney, who was at MGM), and the rest fitted with a music and sound effects track. However, the version that most video editions are sourced from are from a 35mm print that was struck for the George Eastman House motion picture archives in the early 1950s. This version is a silent reworking of the 1929 reissue. The most notable differences between the two available cuts of the film are the transformation of Virginia Pearson's character of Carlotta (in the 1925 film) to "Carlotta's mother" in the Eastman House print, with singer Mary Fabian playing the role of Carlotta in the reissue. The editions of the film available are almost all of the Eastman House print, with a hand full of distributors presenting the general release prints of 1925.

    In 2012, it was determined that an "accidental 3-D" version of the film existed. From an examination of various prints of the film, it was discovered that most - if not all - of the original film was shot using two cameras placed side-by-side. This was most likely done to create simultaneous master and safety/domestic and foreign negatives of the film. However, when synched together and anaglyph color-tinted, the spatial distance between the two simultaneous film strips translates into an effective 3-D film. Under the working title of LA FANTOME 3D, a fundraising effort is under way to locate and restore (create) a full "accidental 3-D" version of the film. Edit

  • While it is unclear how much footage exactly was in color, the Harrison's Report (a trade journal for exhibitors) recorded that 17 minutes of film on the initial, general release of the film were in color. It is certain that this includes the Bal Masque scene (which survives in color) and the sequences of the Faust opera. Another color process utilized on initial prints was the Handschiegl color process, a stencil color process similar to that used on black and white postcards. It was not natural color, but was used as an effect on the rooftop of the opera, coloring the Phantom's garments a bright crimson. As with many films of the period, most of the black and white portions of the film was color tinted hues of amber, green, blue, red and yellow. Edit

  • After many years studying Chaney's various faces and make-up techniques of the period, it is still unclear how he achieved some of his Phantom effects, most notably the "missing" nose. A popular theory is that he used a translucent material called fishskin and spirit gum to pull his nose up, but in practical applications this doesn't work. In attempting to replicate this technique, the skin on the bridge of the nose simply slides down, ruining the effect. Close examination of original stills reveals a thin, nearly invisible string or wire that can be seen at some angles running from the tip of Chaney's nose, up under his skull cap. This wire would have been attached to tiny hooks inside Chaney's nostrils, and seems the likeliest method used due to reports that his nose often bled during filming. Edit

  • Chaney's tricks of the trade were not divulged completely (if at all), but judging from stills, his make-up kit, and general practice at the time, most of the make-up can be dissected. Chaney began with his head piece-- an enlarged forehead and wig created by a wigmaker named Zan, whom he bought most of his wigs from. His eyelids were pulled down by the use of spirit gum, a rosin-based adhesive safe to use on skin. A set of grotesque dentures, fitted with wires pulled his mouth to a grin, and a rubber and wire appliance (or a strip of thin material called "fish skin") pulled his nose up to the point where it was indecipherable from the front. Chaney further added to the skeletal effect by taping or gluing back his ears. The rest of his face was built up with a combination of cotton and collodion, a solution of cellulose nitrate that dried to a plastic, similar to nail polish. But most of all, a large amount of the effect was achieved by greasepaint. Highlights and shadows in just the right places gave the incredible effect that Chaney desired. His eyes were blackened, but a thin highlight just below the lower eyelid gave the effect of eyeballs protruding within a socket. Fine wrinkles throughout the face gave the skin a whithered appearance. All of this fine make-up work was done with extreme precision, and made Chaney the master of his craft. Edit



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