This film could have benefited from more phantom and less opera.
Erique Claudin (Claude Rains) is a violinist with the Paris Opera. For years he has supported the singing lessons of soprano Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) incognito. Arthritis has affected Claudin’s playing and he is fired. He pins his hopes on a concerto he has spent years writing. When he believes that has been stolen by a music publisher, he attacks the man and is stopped by a woman who throws acid in his face. Disfigured and hunted by the police, Claudin, now clearly insane, takes refuge in the bowels of the Opera. He continues to “support” Christine’s career by threatening horrible revenge against anyone that stands in its way.
In the meantime, the opera’s star baritone (Nelson Eddy) and an aristocratic policeman vie for Christine’s affections. They may be wasting their time as Claudin definitely plans to have her as his own until the end of time.
This “horror” movie just isn’t scary. Claude Rains is the best thing about it but, according to the commentary, he was largely responsible for the lack of thrills. He was so concerned about his image and future prospects that he refused to be very disfigured or menacing. The few clear shots we get of his unmasked face were taken in secret.
If we forget that this is supposed to be a horror movie, it has its points. The production values are splendid and the music is beautiful. Rains has some truly touching moments. I loved the resolution of the love triangle.
Phantom of the Opera won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Color (Hal Mohr) and Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color. It was nominated in the categories of Best Sound, Recording and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward Ward).