Slashifying the Classics
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
“Only love and music are forever.”
Director: Dwight H. Little / Writers: Gaston Leroux & Duke Sandefur / Cast: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy, Stephanie Lawrence, Terence Harvey, Nathan Lewis, Peter Clapham, Molly Shannon.
Body Count: 10
Laughter Lines: “Everybody dies. I only choose the time and place for a few.”
Robert Englund likely sailed through any audition process to play another homicidal burn victim, in the 83rd take on the Gaston Leroux novel – although any associations with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical are mercifully absent.
One-time scream queen Jill Schoelen is Christine, a young operative vocalist who spins back to her previous life in nineteenth century London after a bang on the head at an audition. When the Phantom scares the wits out of the Faust Diva, Christine takes over, while the Phantom knocks off anyone who gets in the way of her success.
Largely shot in Budapest, the slasher elements are brought to the fore, with victims decapitated, gutted, and impaled in several gruesome scenes, that were significantly cut down to avoid an X-rating. The producer almost bankrupted himself pouring money into the film, which subsequently tanked.
Despite this, Englund looks to relish flexing his acting muscle without having a razor glove attached to him, and Elemer Ragalyi’s lush photography fashions a fine looking film. The cast, too, is peppered with recognisable faces and before-they-were-famous names. Perhaps the concept of and upgraded slasher film or downgraded classic, depending how you look at it, is what killed it in the end, but at least it makes for an arty and credible diversion from the usual teens-at-a-party slasher fare. A sequel planned to take place in New York (The Phantom Takes Manhattan?) starring Englund was eventually canned.
Blurbs-of-interest: Aside from playing Freddy Krueger in eight movies, Englund can also be found in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Hatchet, Heartstopper, and Urban Legend; Schoelen was in The Stepfather, Cutting Class, and Popcorn; Terence Harvey was later in similar 19th century slasher variant From Hell; Dwight H. Little directed Halloween 4 the previous year.