• Das Rätsel der unheimlichen Maske (Phantom Of The Opera)

    Das Rätsel der unheimlichen Maske (Phantom Of The Opera)
    Released by: Anolis Entertainment
    Released on: September 27th, 2017.
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Cast: Herbert Lom, Heather Sears, Thorley Walters, Michael Gough, Edward de Souza
    Year: 1962

    The Movie:

    Directed by Terence Fisher in 1962 and based on the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, Hammer Films’ take on The Phantom Of The Opera, written by regular Hammer scribe Tony Hinds, takes place in not in Paris but in London in the year 1900. Here Lord Ambrose D’Arcy’s (Michael Gough) latest opera – Joan Of Arc - is taking shape, though it is not without issue. D’Arcy is less than happy that one singular box remains empty, rumors of a haunting abound, preventing his production from being ‘sold out’ as he would like. There are also tensions that exist between various cast members behind the scenes, though Darcy’s producer Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza) hopes to help in this regard. It all goes south when the body of a stage hand is shockingly revealed during the finale one night, at which point D’Arcy’s leading lady quits.

    Now in a bind, Harry rushes through auditions to find her replacement. He gets lucky when Christine Charles (Heather Sears) offers up her services. Not only was she already involved with the production and therefore familiar with the material, but she’s quite the natural talent. Not only that, but D’Arcy is quite taken with her and later that night, he invites her to dinner. Before she leaves, however, she hears a voice in her dressing room warning her about D’Arcy’s less than noble intentions. All of this ties into Professor L. Petrie. (Herbert Lom), a man who wrote the music that D’Arcy has stolen for his production and who was horribly disfigured in a fire that broke out when he tried to stop the music from being printed. This happened years ago, mind you, but it seems that Petrie, thought to be dead, is back, and very likely the one behind the many terrible events that seem to be plaguing this production – and not only that, but he too seems to have feelings for Christine.

    Not the most literal adaptation of the source novel, Hammer’s take on the story is never the less a nice slice of gothic horror. The film is rich in atmosphere and mood, featuring some great sets and set pieces that help a lot in this department. The Phantom’s underground lair is a strange spot, befitting of a character like he, a man content to live in the shadows for as long as necessary. The makeup effects used in the picture are also quite good, never cheap or gaudy looking, and the mask that is used to cover Lom’s face for much of the film is very effective if more of a minimalist take than what we’ve seen in the silent version and Universal’s take on the story. If this is lighter on the sex and violence than other Hammer pictures made around the same, it’s not any less effective for it. Fisher’s direction isn’t particularly flashy, but it doesn’t need to be. The cinematography from Grant Eastman is superb, it really does a fine job of capturing the sets and locations used for the production.

    The performances in the film are quite good as well. Michael Gough is well cast as the less than trustworthy D’Acry. Gough had had a bit of an upper crust vibe to many of the characters he played throughout his career and he uses that well in this film. He also plays the role with just the right amount of a sleazy underbelly. Edward de Souza is also good here, while Heather Sears is just very likeable as the female lead. She has a naïve charm to her that serves the character nicely – and a fragility that is somehow quite endearing. As to Herbert Lom’s turn behind the mask, he’s really good! He performs with enthusiasm without overdoing it, bringing an intensity to the role that fits quite well. At the same time, the tragic side of the character that plays such a big part to what makes the Phantom interesting isn’t underplayed. What he’s doing is wrong, but we feel for him. The film’s main flaw? Lom is criminally underused in the picture.


    Anolis Entertainment offers up The Phantom Of The Opera in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Image quality here is pretty decent, with detail really shining in the close up shots. There are some scenes where black levels appear to be slightly boosted, resulting in some shots where blacks sometimes look closer to a dark grey than a true black, but this isn't a constant. Aside from that, the transfer is excellent. The framing looks good at 1.78.1 and there are no compression artifacts. Color reproduction looks just fine and skin tones are nice and natural. The image retains a pleasantly film-like quality throughout, there are no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement here.

    Audio options are provided in both English and German language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks with optional subtitles provided for the feature in German only. There are no issues with the English language track on this disc. Dialogue is easily discernable, the score sounds nice and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to report.

    Extras are pretty extensive for this release, staring with an audio commentary courtesy of Anolis’ regular Hammer experts, Dr. Rolf Giesen and Uwe Sommerlad spoken in their native German. Unfortunately there are no English subtitles provided for this.

    Up next is the Making Of Phantom Of The Opera that was originally seen on the UK Blu-ray release. It runs roughly half an hour in length and it contains interviews with Richard Golen, Alan Lavender and Edward De Souza, who also serves as the narrator. Here we get a quick rundown of the history of the Phantom character that then segues into a look at how Hammer brought their version to the big screen. It’s an interesting piece with Lavender talking about his work doing sound on the picture and Golen chiming in to offer up plenty of trivia and insight into the picture’s history and place in Hammer horror history.

    Rounding out the extras are a British theatrical trailer, an alternate German language title sequence, a U.S. radio spot, a gallery that reproduces the film’s original program, a still gallery of advertising materials, a still gallery of ephemera, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Hammer’s take on The Phantom Of The Opera might not get the attention that it’s vampire picture or Frankenstein films so often do, but it’s a very good film in its own right. Anolis’ Blu-ray release is a strong one, presenting the film in fine shape and with a nice selection of extra features too.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!