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The Phantom of the Opera


The Phantom of the Opera




The Phantom of the Opera StampWho can ever forget the nightmarish phantom with his sunken eyes, rotted teeth and deformed face? Or his obsessive love for Christine? He was played by one of the masters of his age, Lon Chaney - "the man of a thousand faces."



The Phantom and Christine

The Phantom of the Opera - as we know today is the adaptation of Gaston Leroux's 1909 novel by the same name. There have been many adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera from the longest running play in Broadway’s history to the horror-cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise. However, for horror-files, the silent film in 1925, starring Lon Chaney - the man of a thousand faces, remains closest to our hearts.


Who is the Phantom?

The story takes place at the Opera House of Paris in the late 1800’s.  The character of The Phantom (or Erik) is masked due to severe facial disfigurement, which actually lends some sympathy to the character. However, probably from cruel ostracism, his insides become disfigured as well - in other words, evil.  He does have some love in his heart – for the beautiful understudy, Christine (Mary Philbin) - who he becomes obsessed with. He goes through any length, including murder to help turn Christine into the star of Opera House.


The Phantom Unmasked

The most memorable scene of the 1925 movie was the unmasking of the The Phantom for the first time by Christine (right) The make-up was so horrific, it was said to have made audience patrons scream and faint!


Lon Chaney, himself, created the look of The Phantom. He once said that "the success of the makeup relied more on the placements of highlights and shadows, some not in the most obvious areas of the face." Chaney creating The Phantom below :


          Lon Chaney Creating The Phantom      Lon Chaney Creating The Phantom


Lon Chaney's Phantom make-up

  1. Chaney started with his head piece - an enlarged forehead and wig.

  2. His eyelids were then pulled down by the use of spirit gum, a rosin-based adhesive safe to use on skin.

  3. A set of grotesque dentures, fitted with wires pulled his mouth to a grin.

  4. 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.

  5. Chaney further added to the skeletal effect by taping or gluing back his ears.

Chaney really felt that the most important tool he used to create The Phantom was 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 withered appearance.


Lon Chaney Unmasked



For more information on Lon Chaney, the following link to PBS is very informative: 

PBS American Masters: Lon Chaney

Lon Chaney: A History of Horror





Phantom of the Opera in pop culture

The Phantom of the Opera has been adapted and parodied by every media possible: films, theater, television, music, literature, even cartoons. Below is just a sliver of what is out there – and this sliver represents some funny and cult-inspired work:  

  • The Simpsons: The Phantom appears in several Simpsons’ episodes.  Homer Simpson, in his usual deft manner calls The Phantom "the gayest super villain ever."

  • The Phantom of the Paradise: The 1974 horror-cult film by Brian DePalma replaces opera theme with more contemporary Rock n’ Roll. Excellent rock musical much like Tommy and The Wall. (below)

  • The Chipmunks - Phantom Of The Rock Opera

  • KISS Meets Phantom of the Park (1978): Quasi-cult TV movie with the rock band KISS using super powers to stop a mad scientist from using his clones to rule the world. Part of the location was filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California. Not Emmy-worthy, but entertaining enough! (below)

  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Episode, "Something Smells," SpongeBob thinks he is ugly, and at one point he is seen in a long black cape playing a pipe organ.

                          Phantom of the Paradise    Kiss The Phantom of the Park   


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PBS American Masters: Lon Chaney

Lon Chaney: A History of Horror



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