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directed by Rupert Julian
USA 19
25 / Restoration 1929

 

Beneath the splendid riches of the Paris Opera House lie ancient catacombs with a dark and forbidden secret. These vast underground rooms and hidden passages were once used as torture chambers to satisfy the blood lust of a crazed population. Rumors abound that the Opera Ghost lives there still, vowing vengeance on the human race.

When film director Rupert Julian was presented with the script for The Phantom of the Opera, he declared simply: "Lon Chaney, or it can't be done!" For the film, "the man of a thousand faces" transformed himself into his most recognizable character. Using chemicals to dilate his pupils, cotton and celluloid discs to heighten his cheekbones, fanged teeth to create a horrific grin and wires to pull his nose upwards, Chaney became the menacing Phantom who lurks in Box 5 of the Opera - and in the dark cellars below.

This spine-tingling, macabre masterpiece can now be viewed in all its grand guignol glory. Using the finest restored 35mm print of the 1929 reissue, and materials from archives around the world, and employing the latest in digital technology, Photoplay Productions created a stunning video master featuring a magnificent orchestral score by composer Carl Davis (Napoleon). The Photoplay team was also able to restore the stunning Technicolor bal masque sequence and has painstakingly re-created the Handschiegl color process used in the famous "Apollo's Lyre" scene on the roof of the Opera.

 

***

 The 1925 Silent film "The Phantom of the Opera" starring Lon Chaney stands as the best argument against remaking classics. Since its release, there have been five official remakes (a sixth, based on the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, is currently in the works) which brought to the screen everything that the original lacked: color, music, a higher level of sadistic violence, and more sophisticated special effects. But none of these remakes came close to capturing the genuine sense of horror in the original version, which is widely regarded as being among the finest films ever created.

Yet "The Phantom of the Opera" itself has come down through the years rather worse for the wear. The problems began four years after its release, when Universal Pictures decided to cut 10 minutes from the footage and add new footage (including a prologue with a weird man holding a lantern in a dark catacomb) plus a new soundtrack that would take advantage of the new push to talking pictures. One major problem with this was the absence of Lon Chaney, who was then under contract at MGM and could not add his voice to the film. The solution, if you could call it that, was to leave the Phantom's voice off the soundtrack. Inexplicably, the soundtrack was lost over time yet this reissued version became the accepted standard version. The 1925 version survived, but the extant prints deteriorated to the point that they were rarely screened; many scholars mistakenly believed this version was lost. In 1953, Universal stupidly neglected to renew the film's copyright and "The Phantom of the Opera" lapsed into the public domain, resulting in a flood of badly duped prints that became commonly seen on TV broadcasts and cheap videos.

 Excerpt from Phil Hall's review at Film Threat located HERE.

 

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 6th, 1925

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Comparison:

Image Entertainment (Milestone Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

 

The Phantom of the Opera - The Ultimate Edition (1925 Original Version and 1929 Restored Version) (1925)

 

     

     

    

Distribution Image Entertainment (Milestone Collection) Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Kino Lorber
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray
Runtime 1929 - 1:34:42  /  1925 - 1:46:56

1929 24-frames - 1:18:14.272

1929 20-frames - 1:32:08.981

1925 - 1:54:17.483

Video 1.15:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 1929 - 7.3 mb/s / 1925 - 7.0 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1929 Disc Size: 46,609,878,585 bytes

24-frames Feature Size: 21,257,355,264 bytes

20-frames Feature Size: 25,037,862,912 bytes

Total Bitrate: 29.93 Mbps (both)

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

 

1925 Disc Size: 45,870,393,244 bytes

Feature Size: 22,190,315,520 bytes

Total Bitrate: 22.96 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC 1080i

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate:

Bitrate (1929): Blu-ray one - 24 Frames

Bitrate (1929): Blu-ray one - 20 frames

Bitrate (1925): Blu-ray

Audio 1925 - Silent - Carl Davis orchestral score  (Dolby Digital 2.0) , 1929 - minor dialogue talkie (Dolby Digital 2.0) 1929 - LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
1925 - LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles None (intertitles in English) None (intertitles in English)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment (Milestone Collection) Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.15:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen
• Carl Davis orchestral score
Original Vitaphone soundtrack
• Stills Galleries featuring deleted scenes from original San Francisco and Los Angeles premieres
• 1925 original feature version with a score by Jon Mirsalis
• "Carla Laemmle Remembers" a 7-minute video interview with David Skal
• 1925 and 1930 reissue trailers
• FAUST (opera extract) from the 1929 Tiffany sound feature, MIDSTREAM
• Audio Gallery: Additional dialogue from the 1929 Vitaphone disks, and interview with • Phantom cinematographer Charles Van Enger
• "1929 Version (98 minutes) restored by Photoplay
• Productions with original two-color Technicolor, Tints and "Handschiegl" color process
• Number of discs: 2

DVD Release Date: September 9th, 2003

Double thick keep case
Chapters: 1929 version has 23, 1925 version has 29

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Lorber

 

1929 Disc Size: 46,609,878,585 bytes

24-frames Feature Size: 21,257,355,264 bytes

20-frames Feature Size: 25,037,862,912 bytes

Total Bitrate: 29.93 Mbps (both)

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

 

1925 Disc Size: 45,870,393,244 bytes

Feature Size: 22,190,315,520 bytes

Total Bitrate: 22.96 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC 1080i

 

Edition Details:

• Audio Commentary by Jon Mirsalis (on 1929 - 20 frames version)

• Excerpts of the sound edition (53:55)

Original Screenplay (1:31:00)

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:14)

Gabriel Thibaudeau Interview

Burton Home Travels Pictures

• Paris From a Motor (3:25)

• A Trip on the Seine (3:30)
 

Blu-ray Release Date: October 13th, 2015
Standard
Blu-ray case

Chapters: 11

 

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray September 15': This can be somewhat confusing. Kino have an impressive package here. It is 2 dual-layered Blu-ray discs. The first has the 1929 (restored) version of The Phantom of the Opera and you get the option of either 20 frames per second running or 24 frames per second. Both are 1080P! It is from the same transfer (not seamlessly-branched) but, obviously, they have different running times. I've compared a few frames and they seem exact or at least extremely close. The differences will be seen in-motion. It looks like a stunning upgrade in 1080P. Okay, on the second BD disc is the 'original' 1925 version, in its predictably weaker image quality and transferred in 1080i (interlaced). You can see for yourself the vast improvement and the new Blu-ray transfer has some different tints - and there was one frame I simply could not find (even though it was identified with a time-cue.) So we can presume these are different source/restorations - not simply the old one transferred in the higher resolution. Regardless, in motion - it is even better than the static caps can indicate. Wonderful grain textures.

The audio - on the faster running 25 fps Blu-ray of the 1929 version you get the option of either The Alloy Orchestra or an organ score by Gaylord Carter - both in an uncompressed linear PCM, 2.0 channel, that sounds wonderful. On the 20 fps 1929 version we have a Gabriel Thibaudeau score and a feature-length commentary by Jon Mirsalis. Of all the presentations in this package this 20 fps 29' version was my favorite. The scores all have their own charm and sound crisp and clean.

The other supplements are located on the second Blu-ray disc with the 1925 version. We get an hour's worth of the excerpts of the sound edition - were you can appreciate how affected it was. There is a running text screen of the entire original Screenplay (running over 1.5 hours), an original theatrical trailer, Gabriel Thibaudeau Interview and two Burton Home Travels shorts; Paris From a Motor and A Trip on the Seine.

There's no denying the value of this Blu-ray package - the image quality in HD, the audio, the viewing options, commentary and the other supplements. For Silent Era fans it is really an essential. Our highest recommendation!

***

ON THE DVDs: 2 disc - one with the restored 1929 version and the 2nd with the original (and longer) 1925 version.

Well, I've read quite a bit on these two releases and the processes that went behind the newer 1929 edition, and I can't say I am all for it, although it is impossible to deny that this restored version is the best that the Lon Chaney classic may ever look. I guess although we can be dyed-in-the-wool artistic protectionists that the 1929 version was extensively created over 75 years ago - but even in that sense we have a bit of a mish-mash put together far after-the-fact. I, in no way, mean to ignore the great detail and research that went into the piece-meal creation of this 1929 edition and this is much akin to Lang's Metropolis in that respect. Unfortunately footage or audio is lost forever and we should be thankful that we have anything at all.

Considering the age and elemental history this Image DVD showcases the 1929 restored version looking absolutely magnificent. Of course not perfect with much flickering contrast and some unavoidable damage marks but the Carl Davis track sounds pristine and the entire film gives a bona-fide 'step back' sense. I would compare this to Image's Les Vampires, for that same intrinsic historical 'feeling' of being in a theatre patron of over half a century ago. It has what might appear to be ghosting but I can only assume this has to do with frame rate conversion. I am also grateful that the original 1.15 aspect ratio has been preserved in both editions. 

Unfortunately, the original 1925 edition (on disc 2) has been treated like a poor cousin and has not been transferred progressively (interlaced). 'Combing' can be seen in many instances (see last large capture) which only adds to its extremely ill-lit and damaged appearance. Still the mere addition of this release is a testament to the respect Image has shown the film. Film students could spend hours comparing and calculating the additions and deletions... in fact you can't really 'not' do it yourself. With all the abundant extra features, including a commentary, this is a must-own digital release showcasing the only worthy versions of this magnificently crafted story. We strongly recommend! out of     

Gary W. Tooze

 





DVD Menus

 

 

DVD Menus (Disc 2 - 1925 version)

 

Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Intertitle Sample

 

1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1929 Restored version - TOP

2) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1925 Original Feature Version - MIDDLE

3) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1929 Restored version - TOP

2) Kino Lorber (1925 version) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - SECOND

3) Kino Lorber (1929 - 20 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Kino Lorber (1929 - 24 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1929 Restored version - TOP

2) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1925 Original Feature Version - SECOND

3) Kino Lorber (1925 version) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Kino Lorber (1929 - 20 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Kino Lorber (1929 - 24 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1929 Restored version - TOP

2) Kino Lorber (1929 - close as I could get) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1929 Restored version - TOP

2) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1925 Original Feature Version - MIDDLE

3) Kino Lorber (1929 - 20 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1929 Restored version - TOP

2) Image Entertainment (Milestone)- 1925 Original Feature Version - MIDDLE

3) Kino Lorber (1929 - 24 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


Capture from colorized segment of 1929 restored version on the DVD
 

 


 

 
Combing in 1925 version...
 

More Captures from the Kino Lorber (1929 - 20 frames) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

Box Covers

   

 

The Phantom of the Opera - The Ultimate Edition (1925 Original Version and 1929 Restored Version) (1925)

 

     

     

    

Distribution Image Entertainment (Milestone Collection) Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Kino Lorber
Region 'A' -
Blu-ray




 

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