1962 – The Phantom of the Opera

1962 – The Phantom of the Opera

1962 The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom (Prof. L. Petrie) – Herbert Lom
Christine Charles – Heather Sears
Harry Hunter – Edward de Souza
Lattimer – Thorley Walters
Lord Ambrose d’Arcy – Michael Gough
Maria – Liane Aukin
The Dwarf – Ian Wilson
Director – Terence Fisher
Screenplay –  John Elder (Anthony Hinds)
Producer – Anthony Hinds
Music Composer and Conductor – Edwin Astley
Staging of opera sequences – Dennis Maunder

A new opera by Lord Ambrose d’Arcy (Michael Gough) is opening in London. The opera’s star, Maria, is unnerved, however: a ‘Phantom’ appeared to her in her dressing room. On stage, as she sings, the strangulated body of a worker swings on a rope from the side of the stage, slicing through the flats’ painted fabric. The opera is postponed indefinitely. Hunter (Edward De Souza), the show’s producer, expresses surprise that Lord Ambrose has written this opera when he shows such poor musical taste generally. Maria refuses to return to the opera, but a new singer is found the next day: Christine Charles (Heather Sears). Soon after the audition, while alone in the chorus’ dressing room, she hears the voice of man who offers to improve her singing, but she must sing only for him. She is unnerved, though not as unnerved as she is by a dinner date with Lord Ambrose, at which he offers her private tuition. It seems the role comes with a cost, which is to be paid with sexual favours via late night private singing lessons. Hunter appears at the restaurant in the nick of time. When Christine invites him to accompany them to her late night lesson, Ambrose decides against the plan and tells her she can take a cab home (‘It’s late’). The same evening Hunter tells Christine of the ‘evil’ he feels is lurking in the theatre, trying to undermine the performance of Ambrose’s opera. Christine tells Hunter about the voice she heard and they return to the theatre to investigate. The same evening, the theatre’s rat catcher is killed by a figure we have not seen before, short and hunchbacked. The Phantom appears, and Christine faints.

Both Hunter and Christine are sacked from the production by Ambrose. Visiting Christine the next day at her boarding house, Hunter’s attention is drawn by a piece of music stuck to a screen. Christine’s landlady explains that it was from a piece by Professor Petrie, a previous tenant who was burned to death in a fire at a printers’. Hunter and Christine begin to investigate Petrie. The printer reveals that the man who broke in to the printer’s shop did not die but was severely burned. Petrie never returned to his lodgings, it seems.

Christine returns to her lodgings feeling happy after her day spent with Hunter. She opens the curtains in her room and is shocked to see the short hunchback man leering at her at the window. He carries her off to a watery place beneath the opera, where she meets ‘the Phantom’. He insists that she take his singing instruction.

Hunter continues to investigate what happened to Petrie, believing the river must have something to do with it. As he is exploring, he hears Christine singing. This motivates his interest further, but after entering the underground waterways, is attacked by the hunchbacked figure. Hunter overpowers him, finds the Professor and reveals all he knows.

Somehow (?) the opera is back on stage again; Christine performs the lead role, rather than the jolly and rather lurid replacement that Ambrose selected to take her place. Extracts of multiple scenes are depicted. She receives the audience’s applause at the opera’s end, alongside the Professor’s nod (and tear). The little man has been watching from the flies, but is spotted and is chased. He jumps to the chandelier. It creaks threateningly above the stage. The Professor rips off his mask and jumps onto the stage, pushing Christine out of the way – sacrificing himself as the chandelier falls. The End.


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