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Well for fun I decided to do a little visual retrospective on the evolution of Erik (the Opera Ghost) from Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera.  Why?  I simply think this is a fun character to cover because he's changed so dramatically over the century since the original novel that it would provide some great compare-and-contrast material.  Hope you enjoy this retrospective I've but together!

Illustrations based on Gaston Leroux's original text's description

Original novel described a character whose facial disfigurement left with the appearance of looking like a living skull

In Leroux used the following quote to describe Erik when his mask was removed:

"His face is like leprous parchment, yellow skin strung tight over protruding bones! His nose- there is no nose!" 

1925 Silent Film Starring Lon Chaney, Senior

Innovator of Hollywood make-up and one of the greatest silent actors of all time Lon Chaney, Sr. had played several monsters (including The Hunchback of Notre Dame) prior to playing Erik.  Using painful metal hooks and wires to distort his nose and jaw Chaney attempted to recreate to the best of his abilities how he thought someone who looked like a living skull would look.  His performance relied heavily on his infamous hand gestures which would become closely associated with future incarnations of the character.  

1943 Technicolor Film

1943's film is a dramatic departure from the novel.  Here Erik is Enrique Claudin, a violinist for the Paris Opera House who has acted as a mentor for Christine.  As opposed to living in the darkness of the sewers his entire life this Phantom is the result of his face being splashed with acid which causes him to retreat underground.  Not as spectacular or haunting as the Lon Chaney original the 1943 technicolor film would play a crucuial part in shaping Erik's more modern depictions by changing his disfigurement from covering his entire face to only one side of it.  This introduces the partial face mask, hat, and cloak which would become the standard wardrobe for the Phantom in just about every future adaptation of the tale. 

1974 - Phantom of Paradise

Brian De Palma's 1974 rock musical is a produt that could have only been created by the rock music and performewrs of the 1970s.  Once more the Phantom (here named Winslow) wears a mask that leaves his jaw exposed.  Sadly I cannot at this time comment much as I haven't seen this film yet

1987 Andrew Lloyd Webber's Musical (Michael Crawford) 

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera has became the most successful play of the last 100 years is currently the standard by which most people know this tale.  Michael Crawford as the original Phantom sports an wardrobe and disfigurement more in keeping with the 1943 film but returns to the roots of the novel on having lived his entire life under the Paris Opera House- but this Phantom is also far more of a romantic figure than the monstrous murderer of the novel. 

1989 Robert Englund Film

Following the success of the stage musical and Robert Englund's iconic role of Freddy in the Nightmare on Elm Street films MGM produces a film which is a blatant attempt to cash in on the Nightmare films and the musical at the same time. 

2004 Movie Adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical

Gerard Butler is easily my least favorite job on portraying this character.  Andrew Lloyd Webber when designing the movie adaption of his play seemed to have totally forgotten the concept of "gothic romance" and had the filmmakers try to "sex it up" with a young, muscular, tanned Gerard Butler play the role.  The facial disfigurement which is so integral to the role also become little more that a birthmark or sunburn- not at all something which inspires fear in the hearts of others.  His complaining about his appearance is akin to a model saying he/she is hideous due to a zit on their head.  

And that's my recap of this character!  I know I missed some but I felt they weren't worth mentioning or that they were too close to versions I've already covered in this entry.  

I think next time for a series of gothic characters I'll tackle the most used villain of all time: Count Dracula

Date: 2012-05-27 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi! I was wondering if I might be able to use your photos of Crawford and Butler unmasked for an essay I'm writing for my blog at Credit would of course be given. Thank you for your time and consideration.


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March 2012


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