Fitting neatly into that Hammer category marked ‘rarely seen or talked about’, 1962’s The Phantom Of The Opera is a slick, somewhat sedate offering.

Originally brought to the studio by (and intended as a vehicle for) none other than Cary Grant, Phantom was obviously seen by the studio as another franchise table-setter, with Hammer already having got their Dracula and Frankenstein series’ up and running in recent times.

After a few casting shunts Herbert Lom was cast as the titular character, a brooding composer eeking out an existence in the London sewers after a fire at a London printers leaves him horribly scarred.

The film centres on an operatic production of Joan of Arc in the capital, overseen by tyrannical theatre impresario Lord Ambrose d’Arcy (Michael Gough).

Lord d’Arcy is the talk of the theatre world thanks to a series of musical hits, which wouldn’t you know actually came courtesy of the pen of Lom’s Professor Petrie.

Petrie finds out he’s being swindled, attempts to destroy the copies of his work, triggering the blaze which supposedly leaves him for dead.

In addition, d’Arcy also has the hots for lead singer Christine (Heather Sears), but so does our hero, producer Harry Hunter (Edward de Souza).

Caught up in something of a love triangle, things get even worse for Christine when she is kidnapped by the Phantom and his henchman and transported to his underground lair.

Petrie/Phantom doesn’t have anything too sinister lined up though, instead wanting to coach Christine himself, preparing her for a stage role that will culminate in a number of scores being settled….

The Phantom of the Opera contains all the hallmarks of a Hammer classic – a well-known tale given a slight twist, tremendous production values and a look and style surpassing its (admittedly decent) budget.

The acting is fine in the main – Lom conjures up a sympathetic villain, Sears and de Souza add some glamour and the support cast do just that.

The only real problem is Gough, who turns in a performance that redefines ‘scenery chewing’ – all gurning, shouting and straining, his Lord d’Arcy descends into nothing more than a pantomime villain.

There are a number of well-staged set pieces thanks to veteran director Terence Fisher and the film also sounds great, with a very neat use of the opera’s score doubling as the film’s soundtrack in some scenes.

The opera scenes also present a problem though, with chunks of the film given over to auditions and rehearsals that do little but slow the pace.

There is also very little in the way of scares, although the look of the Phantom is dealt with very well and is certainly effective.

I’m caught in two minds about The Phantom of the Opera if I’m honest – as a polished, well-acted exercise in style it certainly scores, but as a fright flick it does not really deliver the goods.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.