Willie The Visitor Goes To The Opera. Phantom Of The Opera On Scream! Factory Blu-ray.

Freddy Kruger trades his knife glove for a pipe organ in the 1989 movie The Phantom Of The Opera. Robert Englund plays composer Erik Destler – The Phantom – a fabled legend who traded his soul for fame which came with a price – the hideous disfigurement of his face. Now, he haunts a London Opera house while at the same time obsessively stalking a beautiful young singer. Borrowing source material from Gaston Leroux’s 1911 bestselling novel of the same name, this version plays more gruesome than the stage musical popularized in the 80s by Andrew Lloyd Weber. The action has been moved from the streets of Paris to a darker, Jack The Ripper’esue London. Englund is in fine mellow dramatic form, especially during his attempts to seduce the young Christine Day – delicately played by 80s horror staple Jill Schoelen. Rounding out the cast are some fine actors like Bill Nighy (before he was THE Bill Nighy), Alex Hyde-White and a pre-SNL Molly Shannon.

Director Dwight Little, who made the awesome Halloween 4 and kick ass Rapid Fire, does an exquisite job creating a sinister mood. Some flashy staging in the opera scenes and an opulent masquerade ball, creates a stark contrast between high society and the sewers beneath London where Destler hides. I enjoyed the angle of a sinister Phantom who has completely lost his moral compass and ritualistically kills people because he needs their skin to keep his face fresh and handsome. This point feeds the film’s body count as well as giving us a generous helping of fun, blood soaked gags. The score by Misha Segal and make-up by Kevin Yagher are the two stand out performances in the movie. There is one particularly grim scene which has Destler repairing his deteriorating face and the practical effects are stunning. The mid to late 80s, to my mind, was the height of special make-up effects and the film makes great use of these techniques. Technically, the images are captured in great detail and the score elevates the story to a grand scale. The opera music created for the soundtrack is lush and original, never feeling cheap or written as an afterthought.

All that said, I did find the movie to be slow in parts and I can see why an audience expecting “A Night At The Opera With Freddy Kruger” to not respond enthusiastically. Conversely, anyone looking for a romantic Phantom might be turned off by the gore. This conflict didn’t help the film at the box office during its initial run. However, it has found a nice cult following in the home video world and Scream! Factory gives the fans a WONDERFUL new release.

No doubt, any fan of the movie should own this Blu-ray. It’s been transferred with loving clarity. The beautiful photography and art direction are on full display. There is a nice audio commentary with Englund and Little, and their rapport is that of two old friends revisiting a decades old project they clearly loved making. Red Shirt Productions provides a well made documentary. The doc runtime is just enough to leave you wanting more, but they pack it with great interviews from Englund and the gang who have fascinating insight and trivia into how they put the film together.

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Patrick J. Doody

Patrick J. Doody is a horror nerd and Mexican Pepsi enthusiast living in Los Angeles.He writes movies and makes TV shows. Check out his latest endeavor, Beyond Stranger Things streaming on Netflix.

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