Lon Chaney’s phantom is a creature that Shakespeare’s Richard III, would have been comfortable with. Someone who, because he cannot prove a lover, is determined to prove a villain. But his villainy is not in pursuit of power, but rather in pursuit of truth, an artistic truth so blindingly real that the woman he loves would have to bow down and admire him.
The film is appropriately operatic, both in Lon Chaney’s performance, and in the little touches of scene and scenery. The ballet dancers twirl in fear, the underground chambers are dramatic labyrinths, and one gesture from the monster is enough to make his enemies cringe. The peak of the film – a chase in a horse drawn carriage that ends with the entire contraption being flipped over – is stunningly shot without special effects.
I should also correct my previous claim that the Black Cat was the first film to use Bach as horror music. I learned from the organ player at this showing that the first time Bach was used for a horror movie was at the London premier of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera in 1925.
I saw this film at the Stanford Theater.