The Phantom of the Opera 1943 with Claude Rains

We have become so used to the wonderful Andrew Lloyd Webber stage version of this story that this older Colour film version goes by these days mostly un-noticed which is a great pity because this is a good film. There was a later version made by Hammer Films in England with Herbert Lom as the Phantom made in 1959 – it too was good.

Violinist Erique Claudin played by Claude Rains, is dismissed from the Paris Opera House after revealing that he is losing the use of the fingers of his left hand. Unbeknown to the conductor, who assumes Claudin is able to support himself,  the musician has used all his money to help anonymously fund the voice lessons for Christine Dubois, a young soprano with whom he has fallen in love.  In a desperate attempt to earn money, Claudin submits a piano concerto he has written for publication.

Claude Raines as he Phantom of the Opera

After submitting it and not hearing a response, he becomes worried and returns to the publishers, Pleyel & Desjardins, to ask about it. No one there knows what happened to it, and do not seem to care. Claudin persists, but Maurice Pleyel rudely tells him to leave and goes back to the etchings he was working on.

The Phantom of the Opera

Finally giving up, Claudin stands there for a moment and hangs his head sadly. Someone begins to play music in the next room, and he looks up in shock when he hears it. It is his concerto that is merely being endorsed and praised by Franz Liszt. Convinced that Pleyel is trying to steal his concerto, Claudin leaps up and begins to strangle him. Just as he tosses the body of Pleyel to the floor, Georgette, the publisher’s assistant, throws etching acid at Claudin. Screaming and wailing, he dashes out the door clutching his face. Now being hunted down by the police for murder, he flees to the sewers of the Opera. Claudin steals a prop mask from the costume department to cover his now-disfigured face.

The Phantom of the Opera 4

Above – The Paris Opera House

Back now to the Hammer version with Herbert Lom.
Herbert Lom as The Phantom of the Opera
In this particular “Phantom,” from Hammer Studios, the Phantom (Herbert Lom), and here Christine’s suitor is the manager of the opera house (Edward de Souza). There is also a real villain, a plagiarist in the form of Lord d’Arcy (Michael Gough).
Michael Gough in The Phantom of the Opera
Michael Gough is a really wicked villain and the supposed composer of the opera; Edward de Souza is a  a good romantic interest for Christine; and Heather Sears as Christine is very sweet.
Herbert Lom  is a great Phantom although is not a huge role in this film, but an effective and highly sympathetic one.
Herbert Lom as The Phantom
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