Monday, October 15, 2012
Making Monsters #14: The Phantom of the Opera
Chaney's most famous role, of course, is Erik in 1925's The Phantom of the Opera. To bring to life the disfigured character that Gaston Leroux's book describes as having the face of a corpse, Chaney covered his eye sockets with black paint, wore crooked false teeth and, most famously, used wire to turn the tip of his nose permanently up, giving it a pig-like appearance. The famous moment when Christine (Mary Philbin) removes the Phantom's mask, revealing his horrible visage frozen in shock, supposedly caused audiences in 1925 to scream and pass out; it was The Exorcist of its time. The scene is still startling; although it's easy now to scoff at Chaney's performance with the ironic distance that time affords, the fact is that Chaney's performance remains - after Robert Englund's Freddy-like Phantom and Gerard Butler's crooning, barely scarred Phantom - the most memorable and enduring incarnation of the character to date.