The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1909)
The Phantom of the Opera directed by Rupert Julian (1925)
The Phantom of the Opera directed by Joel Schumacher (2004) original musical written by Andrew Lloyd Weber in 1986
I didn’t know until recently that Phantom was a book! I knew there were older movies, but the only adaptation I was familiar with was the musical. I was surprised as I read, how dark the book is and how disturbed the Phantom was.
This book is also written as if from the perspective of an investigator or journalist who is trying to uncover the truth of what happened at the Paris Opera years prior. While there really was a tragedy of the chandelier falling leading to some people dying, as well as rumors of a ghost, plus the underground of the opera house being full of tunnels and having a river. So, it is sort of based in some truth, but the story of Christine and the details of the Phantoms past and all that is made up.
This is a quick read and was originally published as a serial. It therefore has a lot of chapters that end in cliffhangers. It is also written in a simple, direct way. I usually assume that older books will take a bit to become accustomed to the older writing style, but this one was an easy read.
I grew up listening to the soundtrack from the Broadway play and saw this movie shortly after it was released. I have always loved the music, and this is a great movie adaptation! Gerard Butler doesn’t have the most amazing voice, but he certainly isn’t the disaster of Russel Crowe in Les Mis. Emmy Rossum is superb as Christine and she was only 17 during filming! I was also shocked to realize Cirian Heinz plays one of the new opera owners! He looks so different! He his younger, plus just his hair and everything is so different.
Minnie Driver plays Carlotta, who has a bigger role in the movie I would say, then she did in the book. She is the only one who doesn’t do her own singing. Watching it this time around, I noticed how much humor is in this movie and it seems Driver in particular was having a good time with this.
This is an amazing production though, the sets, the wardrobe, the singing. My only complaint would be the flash-forwards throughout the movie. Whenever they happen, it just ruins the flow! I’m fine having it start with the present day, and end with the present day, but those parts in the middle I did not like at all.
The Phantom’s history
We will start right with the Phantom. For starters, in the book his name is Erik! I could not believe that lol, it is just such a normal name. In the book we learn that he was born disfigured and his mother was disgusted with him and made him a mask to wear. She also never let him kiss her and she never kissed him.
At some point he started traveling around and spent time in parts of the middle east, such as Persia. He helps sultans build trap doors, torture chambers, and other such things. When he is done, he has to run away because they now want to kill him seeing as how he knows their secret passages and such.
We hear about one sultana he seems to have been into and it seems like he would kill people using his “Punjab lasso” for entertainment for her. Maybe I misunderstood that part of the book, but that’s what it seems like.
He then goes to Paris and helps with the construction of the opera house and puts in all those trap doors and passageways and decides that is where he will live. I assume he was wearing some kind of disguise through all of this to hide his disfiguration.
In the musical, we learn his mother didn’t love him due to his face, and at some point, was the “circus freak”, this was also in the book by the way.
In the movie, he kills the guy who is in charge of the circus, and a young Madame Giry sees and helps him run away and has him live below the opera where she is training.
Before moving on to Christine, I want to share some quotes from the book that show the kind of person Erik is, “His horrible, unparalleled and repulsive ugliness put him without the pale of humanity; and it often seemed to me that, for this reason, he no longer believed that he had any duty toward the human race.”
Another quotes says how he is, “.. in certain respects, a regular child, vain and self-conceited, and there is nothing he loves so much, after astonishing people, as to prove all the really miraculous ingenuity of his mind.”
The Phantom and Christine
In the book, Erik seems to be beyond positive influence. Of course, he does release Christine in the end, but still, he has a backwards way of thinking and is not sane. The book really shows how much he tormented Christine, tricked her, manipulated her, and forced her to do what he wanted. At one point near the end, he leaves her alone in his chambers and while alone she tries to commit suicide by banging her head against the wall repeatedly! When he comes back, he ties her up to prevent her from harming herself further.
She also can’t show her affection for Raoul because of how controlling and jealous he is. This is kind of shown in the movie with them having a “secret” engagement, but in the book, it was even more so.
We learn in the book that Christine was visited by his voice, and later told Madame Giry about it (her adoptive mother) and wondered if it was the Angel of Music her father said would one day visit her. Giry advised Christine to ask the voice, so next time he spoke to her she asked if he was the Angel of Music to which he said he was.
In the book, when Christine is telling Raoul about everything, he thinks to himself, “He now realized the possible state of mind of a girl brought up between a superstitious fiddler and a visionary old lady and he shuddered when he thought of the consequences of it all.”
In the book Erik gives Christine a ring when having her with him for a week or two. He tells her she must wear the ring as a symbol of her loyalty to him. Raoul asks her about it but she avoids answering for a while. She suggests she and Raoul pay pretend to be engaged for the next little while and tells him that the Phantom is busy working on his opera piece and when he works on it he become obsessed and does nothing else, so they are therefore safe to roam the opera house together. Though she tries to stay on the higher floors, hoping that will reduce the risk of the Phantom seeing her with Raoul. Of course, as scene in both movies, when they go to the opera rooftop and she tells him all about the Phantom, the Phantom is there too and overhears it all.
The movie does have the line the Phantom says about Raoul, “He was bound to love you when he heard you sing” which watching now comes off very manipulative. As if the Phantom is the only one who can truly love her because he wanted to be with her before she became well known for her singing. As if Raoul doesn’t truly love her, but just likes her for her voice and fame.
Also, in the book when Christine takes off the Phantom’s mask while in his lair, he goes kind of crazy, which the movie shows. But in the book, he grabs her and forces her to look at his face, then takes her hand and uses her fingernails to scratch his own face.
Christine and Raoul
In the book, Raoul is also very possessive of Christine and very jealous. He also doesn’t seem very concerned for her, rather is only worried about himself. He hears her in her dressing room saying, “Poor Erik” and thinks, “At first, he thought he must be mistaken. To begin with, he was persuaded that, if any one was to be pitied, it was he, Raoul. It would have been quite natural if she had said, “Poor Raoul,” after what had happened between them. But, shaking her head, she repeated: “Poor Erik!””
When Christine tries telling him she can’t be with him, rather than seeing the signs that she is being manipulated and controlled by a murderous man, he instead gets incredibly mean and says horrible things to her, to which she replies, ““You will beg my pardon, one day, for all those ugly words, Raoul, and when you do I shall forgive you!” He shook his head. “No, no, you have driven me mad! When I think that I had only one object in life: to give my name to an opera wench!””
Raoul is also useless in the rescue of Christine in the book and it is thanks to the Persian that she is saved in the end. But I will get to the details of that later.
In the musical, Raoul doesn’t take Christine seriously at first, but in time sees the threat the Phantom is and they have the duel at the graveyard. There is a graveyard scene in the book, but I don’t recall it leading to a fight between Erik and Raoul.
In the movie, Raoul organized a way to catch the Phantom during the play and throughout the movie he is much more heroic and likable than he was in the book. We also learn in the movie that she and Raoul had been childhood sweethearts, whereas in the book they had known each other, but I don’t know if they were sweethearts.
Also, in the book when he first approaches her and says something about knowing her, she laughs at him. This is after she has fainted, and there are others in the dressing room at the moment. Raoul is embarrassed and hurt. He later confronts her and she tells him she did it for his own good, because she couldn’t risk the Phantom seeing her be friendly with another man.
In the movie, when first reuniting, they talk alone and Christine is very happy to see him. In both, after they interact, she is taken away by the Phantom which Raoul overhears.
In the movie, there is also six months of relief from the Phantom during which time Raoul and Christine get engaged. At the masquerade Christine is wary of showing off the engagement and tells him they should keep it a secret.
In the book, she speaks to Raoul at the masquerade and tries to do it slyly, because the Phantom doesn’t want her speaking to him. Erik is there at the party, dressed as the Red Death, but he doesn’t make any grand announcement, rather is just kind of there.
In the musical, the Phantom is there and tells them he has written the play Don Juan Triumphant and they must perform it. In the book we know the music he is writing is called Don Juan Triumphant but he never has the opera perform it.
In the musical, they are performing Don Juan Triumphant when Christine takes off his mask, and then in the shock of the whole scene, the Phantom pulls a cord which opens a trap door and they fall down below.
Soon after this, Raoul is approached by Madame Giry and she takes him part of the way down before telling him she can’t risk going any further. He goes through some traps, but ultimately ends up with the Phantom and Christine. The Phantom tells her she must marry him, otherwise he will kill Raoul. Christine is disgusted and horrified by him and tells him it isn’t his face that bothers her, rather “it’s in your soul where the true distortion lies.” She then kisses the Phantom and he is brought to tears. In a moment of sanity, he tells her and Raoul to get out of there. They run off, but then Christine returns and gives him the ring he had taken, then goes back to Raoul. In modern day, we see an old Raoul at Christine’s fresh grave and there is also a rose with a black ribbon which is the Phantom’s signature token, showing he is still alive.
In the book Madame Giry isn’t the Phantom’s ally the way she is in the movie. She keeps his box open and delivers money to his box, however she has no personal connection with him and the only reason she does his bidding at times is because he has promised to advance her daughter in her career.
In the book it is a man who is simply referred to as the Persian who knows Erik from his days with the sultan. He takes Raoul down below-constantly telling him to keep his hand at the level of his eye to avoid the lasso which is the Phantom’s trademark. In the book, Raoul tries to get Christine to run away with him after she tells him about Erik when they are on the rooftop. She says she needs to let him hear her sing one last time and then she will go. Of course, during her final performance the lights go out and when they turn back on, Christine is gone because the Phantom has taken her down below.
Anyway, Raoul and the Persian end up falling into the Phantom’s torture chamber, which is a room with a fake tree and a noose hanging from the branch, with mirrors all around causing it to feel like you are in a forest. The Persian tries to find the latch but can’t. They hear Christine on the other side, and once she is alone, they call out to her, however she can’t open the chamber.
When the Phantom returns (from investigating Raoul’s brother who had made his way down below to find Raoul. The brother dies, but I think it was more “accidental” in the book) he discovers the men are in the chamber and turns up the heat, then he and Christine leave.
Basically, right away, Raoul loses it and can’t stand the heat or the confusion of the mirrors.
While he is a mess, the Persian keeps trying to find some latch or screw, which he does ultimately find. The chamber opens from below and drops them into a room with a bunch of gunpowder. They see it is 11pm the next night, so they were in the chamber for almost 24 hours!
They hear Christine and the Phantom return and he tells her to pick which knob she wants to turn-the scorpion knob which will mean she will marry him, or the grasshopper knob which will mean the end of everyone.
He leaves and she talks to Raoul and the Persian through the wall. They decide she should turn the scorpion and when she does the room with the gunpowder fills with water. Which is good, because it means the opera house won’t be blown up. However, the water doesn’t stop and they nearly drown.
When the Persian comes to, the Phantom tells him that it is thanks to Christine that he decided to save him and Raoul. He takes the Persian away, and shortly later, the Phantom arrives at the Persian’s home. He tells him that he was going to take Christine away with him but she allowed him to kiss her forehead and she kissed his forehead. He is so touched by this, having never kissed a living person (implying that he has kissed corpses) and he has never had a person kiss him before. He decides to let her and Raoul go and they run away to another part of the country.
He tells the Persian he is going to die of a broken heart, and when he is dead, to put a notice in the paper and to have the ring he had given Christine placed with him. Which is what happens.
It has been so long since seeing a silent film and I love how they really demand your full attention due to the fact there is so sound (aside from the music). I have seen a number of silent movies in the past, but they were almost all comedies-Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. I was impressed with how truly scary this movie was! Lon Chaney famously did his own makeup and it is superb, just so creepy. The mask he wears is also creepy because of how human like he made it look. I also read that Chaney was raised by deaf mutes and therefore was successful as a silent star because he was used to having to be very expressive with his face and hands.
This adaptation stays very true to the original story for the most part. They speed things alone of course, because it is under 90 minutes long.
I will begin with the end. In the movie, we have Raoul and the guy helping him-in the book it is the Persian, in the movie it is a guy who is an undercover cop who has been investigating the Phantom-anyway the stuff with them is very similar with the torture chamber, the scorpion and grasshopper, with the room being filled with water and Christine convincing Erik to save them. He then runs off with Christine in a carriage and is being chased by a mob. Christine ends up getting out of the carriage and is saved by Raoul. The Phantom is then overtaken by the mob and he is beat to death and his body is thrown in the river, the end! I was surprised by the brutality of this ending. Erik doesn’t die of a broken heart but is rather bludgeoned by the townspeople!
The silent movie doesn’t have the famous scene from book and the musical where he causes Carlotta to croak when singing, but this makes sense considering it is a silent film. Carlotta’s mother is in this movie which seems random…why not have Carlotta in those scenes rather than have her mother there speaking on her behalf…?
The book actually begins with them finding the body of Joseph Buquet, whereas the ’25 movie he is found close to to the end. Then in the musical, his killed in the middle!
In both movies, Joseph enjoys creeping people out with his stories of the Phantom and in the ’25 movie, he is holding a fake prop head that looks very realistic! Gave the whole scene a creepy vibe for sure.
Raoul is kind of in the middle in this movie. He isn’t the self-centered wimp he was in the book, but not the hero of the 2004 movie. Honestly his character is pretty bland here. I wasn’t really feeling the romance between he and Christine in any of the versions to be honest. Though I suppose I would say the 2004 movie made it the most believable.
There is a scene in the book where Raoul is followed home by the Phantom and Raoul shoots him. It’s all speculative though, Raoul’s brother thinks it was a cat whos eyes he saw, but Raoul feels certain it was the Phantom. This isn’t in either movie.
The masquerade scene in the ’25 movie plays out basically the same as in the book as well.
Oh, and in the book and in the ’25 movie, we see Raoul’s brother. In the book he is against his romance with Christine and in book and movie he ends up dying when he goes below the opera house to try and find Raoul. This is a great scene in the ’25 movie because the Phantom is pretty creepy as he gets his reed and walks into the water to tip over the boat the brother is in.
The brother isn’t in the 2004 version.
Book vs movies
This is tough, because I like the actual story in the book and ’25 movie with how the Phantom is deeply disturbed. In the musical, he is clearly messed up, but you just aren’t as bothered by him as you are in the book and ’25 movie. And it isn’t just that his face isn’t nearly as creepy, his personality isn’t nearly as creepy and messed up. When I was in my teens and even early adulthood, I thought she should have gone with the Phantom! I’m older and wiser now, and even with the musical, I can spot an abusive relationship when I see one lol. In the book and older movie, it is clear how crazy the Phantom is. Plus, I know it isn’t fair, but because of how creepy his face really is in the movie, it makes you not root for him the way you may find yourself rooting for the Phantom in the 2004 movie.
I absolutely love the music though! Like I said, it is one the soundtracks I grew up listening to and loving, and overall, I think the singing is excellent in the movie. So, this is a tough one to choose which I like more. If it wasn’t for the music, I for sure wouldn’t like the 2004 movie as much, but how can you talk about the 2004 movie and not think of the music?? I mean, do I have to choose?? This is too hard! I love them all for what they are. The silent movie leaves something to be desired with the way they sped things up, but I mean, Lon Chaney’s Phantom is as iconic a monster as Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Boris Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein! I might cheat and say I love all three for different reasons and would recommend you check out each one!