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The Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture

Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Dwight H. Little
Produced by Menahem Golan
Harry Alan Towers
Written by Gaston Leroux (novel)
Gerry O'Hara (earlier screenplay)
Duke Sandefur (screenplay)
Starring Robert Englund
Jill Schoelen
Alex Hyde-White
Bill Nighy
Terence Harvey
Stephanie Lawrence
Molly Shannon
Emma Rawson
Music by Misha Segal
Cinematography Peter Lyons Collister
Elemér Ragályi
Editing by Charles Bornstein
Distributed by 21st Century Film Corporation
Release date(s) November 4, 1989 (USA)
Running time 93 min.
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue US$3.95 million [1]

The Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture is 1989 film based on Gaston Leroux's novel and was directed by Dwight H. Little.

Contents

Synopsis

A newer, gorier version of the classic 1910 Gaston Leroux tale has A Nightmare on Elm Street's Robert Englund playing the Phantom. Christine Daaé is a young Broadway singer in New York City. She is auditioning for a show, and comes across an old piece of music written nearly 100 years before by an unknown musician name Erik Destler. Destler it seems had made a pact with the devil (maybe by accident) so the world would love his music, the catch was Erik's face would be left horribly disfigured forever. Once Christine sings his music for an audition, she is hit with a sandbag, thus follows a presumed flashback into the past roughly around 1881, where she was the star in the London Opera House. There she is coached by a mysterious "Phantom" who will do anything to make his protege a star, even if it means murder. Christine soon finds out that her teacher is in fact Destler, whom she comes to loathe.

Plot

Christine Daaé (Jill Schoelen) is an opera singer in modern day Manhattan who is searching for some music to sing at her next audition. She tells her friend Meg, who works at the music library, that she wants something unusual and different. Meg uncovers some very old music from an opera called Don Juan Triumphant, written by Erik Destler. Christine is unsure why his name sounds familiar, but Meg does some research: Destler never completed his opera. His reputation as a composer is overshadowed by the dark rumors that he was responsible for many brutal murders. He was also said to have been obsessed with a young opera star who vanished the night of his death.

Christine sings some of the music and the faded ink on the pages turn to blood. She finds her hands covered in it. As Meg returns to her, the blood disappears and the music is returned to normal. The people auditioning are mediocre, until Christine comes on stage. She sings the theme from Don Juan Triumphant, "Your Eyes See But My Shadow". As she sings, she has visions of an audience in evening attire applauding her. A sandbag comes loose and hits Christine in the head, knocking her into a mirror which shatters. She hears a voice calling "Christine...come back to me..."

Christine regains consciousness, no longer in New York, but London, 1881. She is understudying the diva La Carlotta (Stephanie Lawrence) at the London Opera House's production of Faust. As Carlotta rehearses, Erik Destler, aka The Phantom of the Opera (Robert Englund), fixes his "mask"-actually the flesh of his victims stitched to his face. The stagehands joke around, and one of them, Joseph Buquet, makes the mistake of blaming the sandbag gone awry on the Phantom. Destler overhears him and confronts him. When Buquet says he'll make sure it will never happen again, Destler makes sure of it.

Christine waits in her dressing room for the Angel of Music-actually Destler hiding behind her mirror-to appear. He has secretly been giving her voice lessons. Christine believes her deceased father sent the Angel of Music to her to help her sing, like in the stories he told. When Christine tells him something strange, a kind of accident happened today, he tells her it is of no importance and she must concentrate on singing. Destler tells her to sing La Carlotta's part with passion and desire, to sing like an angel. When Christine says he never shows himself to her, he says that he will appear soon. He tells her that tonight the world will at last be ready to hear her. Christine has a brief vision of him in the mirror before he leaves.

The vain and spoiled Carlotta bathes while she talks to the fawning Opera manager, Mr. Barton (Bill Nighy), before the performance of Faust. It is hinted that they are having an affair. She complains her already huge and fancy suite is too small and wants Christine moved to the chorus, or better, kicked out of the Opera House. Mr. Barton tries to convince her Christine was lucky to just be the understudy and jokes that he could easily drown her in her bath, but Carlotta rudely replies "Better submerged in bathwater than mediocrity, don't you agree?" The angry Barton throws her new contract at her, as Carlotta says that she will sing. As Carlotta gets out of her bath, she nearly slips on some blood by her closet door. She peeks inside and discovers to her horror, the skinned body of Joseph Buquet.

Richard Dutton, a businessman, Opera patron and Christine's lover, makes his way to the Opera and explains to Barton about how three hundred pounds go missing every month at the Opera: it is the Opera Ghost's stipend. Box Five is also reserved for him. Both of them joke that it's the superstition of the theatre folk and go see Faust. Everyone is disappointed when it is announced that Carlotta will not be taking the stage due to "a sudden illness" and when Christine appears to play the role of Marguerite. Richard is happy, but Barton is angry with Carlotta, thinking her ego has ruined the show. Inspector Hawkins comes to Carlotta's dressing room and studies the body. He sends Carlotta home. She believes the Phantom has done this, but Hawkins knows better.

As Destler watches Faust from Box Five, he remembers in flashback a scene from his past. A poor musician working and living in a pub, Destler's music is overheard by the Devil disguised as a dwarf. Destler confides that he wants the world to love him for his music. He would give anything for him and his music to become immortal. He and the Devil make an agreement: "The world will love you for your music...but that's all it will love you for." The Devil burns Destler's face and over time it begins to decompose.

Christine sings the role of Marguerite and is a success. Destler nearly gives her a standing ovation, but stops himself, remembering he is supposed to remain hidden. After the performance, he walks down an alley past several prostitutes who try to tempt him by asking him what his desire is. "Desire, what do you know of desire?" he snarls at them. However, he takes one who resembles Christine back to his small room at the inn where he began composing. He tells her "Tonight, you are Christine", and they make love.

After the show, Christine and Richard have dinner together. Christine tells her experiences with the Angel of Music to Richard and describes the passion she feels when she sings. Richard proposes to her, but Christine rejects it, saying that now is not the best time. Meanwhile, Barton discusses Christine's performance with a critic named Harrison who was less than impressed with it. With encouragement from Barton, who wants Carlotta to remain in the spotlight, Harrison starts writing a scathing review.

Destler runs into some would-be thieves as he leaves the inn. He quickly dispatches each of them in a gory fashion. Christine reads Harrison's review and is devastated. Destler also reads the review and tracks down Harrison at a nearby spa. He offers him his private box if he considers rewriting it, but Harrison replies "I would rather die than subject myself to that shrieking child for another evening." Destler makes that wish a reality.

A tearful Christine goes off to visit her father's grave as Richard runs to the boarding house too late to comfort her. While Christine is at the graveyard, a mysterious violinist appears and calls to Christine.

"Your father has sent me. I am your angel. All of your lessons have led to this moment. We will make music that the world will love forever. Take the last step to me...to your destiny...to immortality."

Christine follows the violinist to a carriage. Richard yells out to Christine, but she does not hear him. While the violinist's music casts a beautiful and calming spell on Christine, it causes Richard pain.

The Phantom leads Christine to his lair and Christine urges him to play some music from "Don Juan Triumphant" on his organ. Destler does so unwillingly. He confesses that it is incomplete and she is his inspiration to finish it. Christine sings along, which surprises both her and Destler, because she claims has heard the music before, but does not know where. The Ratcatcher overhears them and is terrified. He is paid extra by Destler to keep his whereabouts a secret and chase the rats away from his lair. Destler forces the ring the Devil gave him on to her finger and says: 'You love the music? I AM the music. Our souls are one. Now you are married to the music. You cannot serve two masters. Do not see another. Tonight, you will be my bride.'

Christine is forced to promise that she will never see Richard again. Richard, on the other hand, goes to Inspector Hawkins, claiming that Christine is in danger. Hawkins tells him that Destler is committing the various murders in her name and is hiding somewhere in the Opera House. Hawkins tells him a secret about the legend of the Phantom of the Opera: The only way to kill Destler is to destroy his music.

Christine tries to remove the ring but cannot. She hides from Richard knowing that he will be in danger. She writes him a letter telling him what has happened, but he dismisses it and seeks her out at the Masquerade Ball at the Opera House. The Phantom, disguised as a party-goer dressed as the Red Death, overhears their plans to elope. Carlotta flirts with him and removes his mask in private. Her head is found floating in the soup bowl shortly after. During the uproar caused by the discovery, Destler kidnaps Christine. Hawkins approaches the Ratcatcher and offers him double of what the Phantom is paying him to lead him, his men, and Richard down to his lair.

In the lair, Destler removes his mask and reveals his deformed face to a horrified Christine. He is about to rape her when he hears the officers approaching. He tells Christine she will never leave and eliminates all of the officers in various ways. He goes after the Ratcatcher himself and impales him on a nail sticking out of a wall. Soon enough, only Hawkins and Richard are left. Christine attempts to escape the bedroom but finds herself in the music room. When Destler finds Christine he plays some music for her telling her it will either be a wedding march or a funeral march; it is up to her to decide which it will be.

Richard and Hawkins break down the door and Richard fights with Destler. Hawkins attempts to shoot at Destler but is pushed down some stairs. Richard appears to be winning when he strangles the Phantom, but he is pushed too far against a column where candles are placed and catches fire. Destler pulls a sconce out of the wall that doubles as a knife and stabs him. As he approaches Christine, she pushes over a candelabrum and slowly the lair burns all around them. Destler tells her "Only love and music are forever." He reaches out to her, but she takes the pistol she took from an officer's body and shoots him. He grabs her hand and tries to pull her to him, but Hawkins manages to shoot him a few times. Christine falls away, the ring flies off her finger. She crashes into a mirror behind her and vanishes. Destler's cries for her to return to him are heard as she screams.

Christine reawakens in the present day, right back where she started from at the audition. Everyone crowds around her to see if she is all right. Dr. Foster, the producer of the opera introduces himself to Christine and tells her she has won the part. He invites Christine out for dinner with the other backers of the show while Meg and the other producers haggle over terms.

At Foster's apartment, Christine discovers some of the music for Foster's opera - Don Juan Triumphant. In private, Foster removes his prosthetic face and puts on a new one. He finds Christine about to run away as she has discovered his real identity, Destler. He tells Christine he has waited a long time for her to return to him and asks her "What do you choose: love or music?" As they kiss, Christine rips off his fake face and stabs him. She steals the music and runs outside, tears it up and throws the pieces down a sewer. Destler is finally dead.

Christine passes a violinist playing in the shadows as she walks home. She drops some money in his hat and walks away. The violinist then begins playing "Your Eyes See But My Shadow". Christine pauses and listens before walking away.

Cast

Erik is a disfigured homicidal musical genius who falls in love with Christine Day

Christine is an innocent and sweet soprano

is Christine's love interest

Barton is the Opera's manager, and Carlotta's boyfriend

Carlotta is the pampered, spoiled leading diva, a bratty and selfish woman

  • Inspector Hawkins: Terence Harvey
  • Davies: Nathan Lewis
  • Harrison: Peter Clapham
  • Meg (New York): Molly Shannon
  • Meg (London): Emma Rawson
  • Mott: Mark Ryan
  • The Rat Catcher: Yehuda Efroni
  • Joseph Buquet: Terence Beesley
  • Elise: Ray Jewers
  • Roland: Robin Hunter
  • Sarah: Virginia Fiol
  • Esther: Cathy Murphy
  • Bartender: Andre Thornton Grimes
  • Maddie: Jaclyn Mendoza
  • The Devil: John Ghavan
  • House Mother: Ottilia Borbáth
  • Maitre D': Lajos Dobák
  • Cardplayers:
Mickey Epps
László Szili
  • Workmen:
Patrick Burke
Jonathan Linsley
Tommy Wright
László Baranyi

Comparison with the original and other versions

In this version of The Phantom of the Opera the main action is transferred from Leroux's Paris Opera House to a London Opera House of the same period (but unlike the original, and most of the other adaptations, there is no falling chandelier scene). However in many respects this film is more faithful to the spirit and letter of the original than many other better known adaptations. In particular the Faustian element present in the book is emphasized - with a staging of Gounod's Faust as in the original, here a reminder of Erik's Satanic pact. The rat catcher is included in this version. The sadism of Leroux's original Erik, who, as in the novel, festoons the Opera with rope traps, is retained here, unlike in more sentimental versions. In a gory touch, the Phantom's original black mask is now a mask stitched together out of the flesh of his victims. The mysterious violinist at the cemetery is also retained in this version. Of the other characters Carlotta is here decapitated by the Phantom (unlike the novel where she survives), the Raoul figure of this version, Richard is set ablaze, and the Rat Catcher of the sewers meets a grisly fate.

The Phantom's disfigurement

In this version Erik's face is burned by the devil's touch. A great quantity of skin is absent on the right side of his face, and his nose lacks skin, of which is present on the back of his head, and he only has a few strands of hair. One of his ears is missing, and he has no teeth.

Box Office / Critical Reception

The film was a box office failure when released, grossing under $4 million in the U.S. This can probably be attributed to an over-saturation of horror films in theaters in 1989, a trend which also hurt the box office of the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th sequels, as well as the poor timing of releasing a horror-themed Phantom film at the height of popularity for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Englund later claimed that the studio had airbrushed the theatrical poster to make the Phantom look more like Freddy Krueger, which he did not appreciate.

Reviews were not enthusiastic, and many Phantom fans have never watched the movie based on its reputation as a 'slasher film'.

Today it enjoys a small but devoted group of admirers, who appreciate how the film does not downplay Erik's violent side as many other adaptations do, as well as the stylish direction and theatrical performances. Many fans praise Robert Englund for his touching and frightening performance.

Music

Fans of the film regard the soundtrack to be especially underrated. The original music written for the film by Misha Segal (also known for the soundtrack to The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking) won a 1989 Brit for best soundtrack. Of particular interest to fans of the original novel is Segal's rendition of the Phantom's opera composition 'Don Juan Triumphant' with the Phantom on the organ and Christine singing.

Version of arietta "Your eyes see but my shadow" with chorus

Irina Sakne (soprano); Academic big chorus of Russian Mendeleyev University

Like in the novel and silent film version, Christine is seen performing as Marguerite in a production of Gounod's Faust, though this time we actually hear her voice. Appearing in the background of the performance are the figures of Faust and Mephisto (symbolic of the Phantom's own pact with the Devil in this film). Christine's singing of recitatives from Gounod's Faust score is more faithful to the original novel than the Lloyd-Webber musical and film: in which an imaginary opera is invented for the occasion.

Planned sequel

Robert Englund was under contract to appear in a sequel, but it was canceled after the film's poor reception, and has been the subject of numerous rumors. Fangoria Magazine claimed in 1991 that the script was re-written into what became Dance Macabre (1991), also starring Englund.

Englund confirmed in a 2004 interview that a script had been written, and while he personally felt it was superior to the first film, it had never been filmed in any capacity.

References

External links

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