Monday, January 4, 2010

The Phantom of the Opera: John Williams Exposed!

This is probably just my stupidity- but for years and years well actually up until this very moment I thought The Phantom was like the Beast. I thought on his exterior he may have been scary but deep down inside he was a kind loving person. Turns out- not so much. I'm not sure if that's the way things are in the musical- since I've never seen it but I wonder what always gave me that impression. Edit: Apparently those are sort of the way things are in the musical. This however paints the Phantom as nothing more than a brutal and crazed murderer. Very interesting- and what is the novel like? I'm too tired to do more research! Someone tell me.

Ok so I find myself dubious of most classic "scary" moments because for the most part I think it largely has to do with the fact that the audience had been exposed to nothing like that- and the times and the taboos and the whatever played an important role in how things were perceived and regarded. I'm telling you right now- I don't care how many times I've seen pictures of the Phantom without his mask on- when THIS happened
I was legit startled. It's something about the timing- how you don't expect the camera to switch that quickly to his revealed face once she pulls off the mask- or maybe it's just the terrifying concept that someone could make his own face look like that. In case you aren't aware- Lon Chaney did his own make up- somehow applying fish skin to your nose and gluing your ears back makes you look that terrifying. I don't care how he did it- it's pretty brilliant and amazing and freaking awesome. I want that poster put up in my room right now. This movie had some truly haunting moments that really just wowed me. Not to mention that organ music is probably the creepiest sounding thing in the world.

The movie is actually filled with stunning moments, I was particularly blown away by the scene where Christine is led down to the Phantom's lair- on horseback down those magnificent and towering stair cases- then led to a frickin boat that floats eerily down a river in the basement!? I loved it. I loved the masquerade scene and the "hold the phone" moment of stunning Technicolor. It was all such a surprise- since I had never really given much thought to this classic beforehand.

Now. Here is my big question- and perhaps I'll be exposing John Williams who knows- yes he is a genius- but I really can't find any record of him using the Phantom of the Opera as inspiration to compose his famous JAWS score. If someone can point me in the direction where I might find that- that would be awesome, because I'm really going nuts here trying to figure out who I need to call and what tabloids need to give me money. OK Here we go... The scene where the Phantom uses a pipe to swim underwater towards the boat is specifically what I'm referring to. Mmmm yes boat....water.....something sticking out of the water so we can tell there's something approaching said boat.....INDEED. If you have Netflix this scene is at about 1:14:00 when the pipe starts getting really close to the boat is where this shit goes down- I kid you not. John Williams is A THIEF. Well possibly just a man who knows a great music score when it hears it and recognizes the power it can unleash. But anyways.

I don't agree with a lot of Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments but I'm going to have to nod my head in agreement with this one. Can you imagine seeing this in 1925? Holy Crap. And Lon Chaney big props to you for your genius makeup work. Really great man. Just really great.

15 comments:

Igor said...

Funny you like the canal scene as that is replete in sexuality. Many of the horror stories of that era - Jeckyl and Hyde, Dracula, the like - are stories of male sexuality. The sexual impulse rests within every man, hidden away. Each is a potential sexual predator. The doctor gives way to the beast. The mask of culture and gentility hides the face of primal desires.

Water in itself is a psychosexual symbol, embodying undulating movement and the capacity to surround and consume you. The ferry ride of the silent film to me is the iconic scene of Phantom.

Damn. Should have saved this for my own blog.

Andre said...

There's still time to put it in your own blog Igor! I look forward to that post... you are insanely intelligent!

Tasha said...

Oh holy crap just that tiny clip was terrifying. What an amazing face!

Bobby Bless said...

John Williams is a thief, but will never get shit for it because he's buddies with the Hollywood Illuminati... i mean, come on, the dude that composed the Re-Animator score got shit for his music sounding too similar to Psycho's, but John Williams won't... i call bullshit.

Andre said...

For real. I say we take this global let's go.

B-Sol said...

I'm curious as to whether the music track on the DVD you watched was the authentic original score that was written for the film, or was it just something added in modern times? That happens sometimes with silent releases on video. If the original score is lost, rather than have the movie play in silence, a random public domain track is added. That MIGHT explain, although if it's an original score, then yes, Williams must've been "inspired" by it.
For more Williams shenanigans, listen to the classical suite "The Planets" by Holst--you will find many themes that are strikingly similar to Williams' music from Star Wars.

The Vicar of VHS said...

I'm right there with you on being legit scared by the Phantom reveal, Andre. Like you rightly point out, no matter how many times you've seen the makeup or cartoon versions of it, when that mask comes off and Chaney makes that grimace, it's still SHOCKING. I think part of it is that, as we're so used to rubber masks in these old movies, you just don't expect his face to MOVE like it does, which is a testament of course to the brilliance of the makeup. (For comparison, find a still of the Phantom makeup from the biopic starring James Cagney in the 40s. Great movie, but lame re-creation of the makeup.) It's also a testament to Chaney's acting, leave us not forget--he totally invests Erik with totally uncontrolled murderous madness from the first reveal, such a difference from the blank calmness of the mask up to that point. Stunning stuff, even now.

One of my fave parts is when the crowd is closing in on Erik, and he pulls out his hand to make them think he's got an explosive and is about to kill everyone--then he opens his hand, shows it empty, and laughs maniacally....I get chills from that one too. Great stuff.

Andre said...

Good point B-Sol- maybe you should research that- but as far as I know there was a re-release with added sound and music but that came out sometime in the 1930s.

I do know about the Planets thing though- and I suppose it makes sense to gain inspiration when scoring Star Wars- but still I'd like to do an expose article on how John Williams may not be as great as everyone thinks...mwahaha


Really good call on that ending scene Vicar! His maniacal laughter is so classically evil I just love it.

Chuck Conry said...

I picked your blog for an award/meme thingy! lol You don't have to do what it says but I wanted you to know about it.

http://zombiesdontrun.blogspot.com/2010/01/umits-awards-day.html

WaffleFries said...

1) Fun fact: I don't remember where I heard it, but I'm vaguely certain rubber bands to the face were involved in getting his face like that.
2) In the book, he's a baddie, maybe not like boil-your-bunnies-bad, but he wasn't a good guy by any stretch. I'll call it a dark grey area. Vague enough?
3) (I was the one who yelled at your twitter account over night of the comet. love that shit.)

Andre said...

Yes! Thanks Waffle Fries--your Night of the Comet tweet was very exciting to me- and now I know that you probably also enjoy waffle fries which means you are double the awesome. Thanks for checking out the blog!

And I wouldn't doubt rubber bands were used- he also crammed some metal thing to get his nose to stay like that- but it made it all bloody and nasty. The things he'll do for the Phantom! I much prefer the character to be a baddie- enough with this soft sensitive side damn it!

WaffleFries said...

AGREED. Also, I have a pretty scathing hatred for musicals, particularly of the Andrew Lloyd Weber variety.

Also, through some light stalking I discovered you are from Boston, which makes YOU doubly awesome. Hooray. Keep up the awesome.

Andre said...

Are you from Boston as well??!

WaffleFries said...

Yes ma'am--born and raised!

Dr. Theda said...

As a small child I first read the story... The scene where she clawed his face as he held her only to draw back her hand with "bits of dead gray flesh..." He was a ruthless madman...( my kind of character) This has been one of my favorites since I first saw an image of Canney's make-up ( He used bent fish hooks and thin wire to pull back his nose is what I read) I had read this Story several times by the eighth grade ... Dr. Theda