1987 – The Phantom of the Opera

1987 – The Phantom of the Opera

1987 The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom (voice) – Aiden Grennell
Christine Daaé – Collette Proctor
Raoul (voice) – Daniel Reardon
Daroga (voice) – Jim Reid
Voice – Joseph Taylor
Directors – Al Guest and Jean Mathieson
Writers – Gaston Leroux (original novel), Al Guest and Jean Mathieson
Producers – Al Guest and Jean Mathieson
Production company – Emerald City Productions for D.L Taffner/Limited
Composer – Gerard Victory
Sound – Jochen Scheffter
Soprano – Virginia Kerr
Editors – Martin Doyle and Michael Kelly
Special Effects Animator – Julian Hynes

This animated adaptation was made for TV (HBO) and released in May 1988; it was also released in Bulgaria, Russia and Brazil. It is faithful to the outline of Leroux’s narrative, if reduced to a more overt story of unrequited love and cut to achieve a run time of 48 minutes. The style of dialogue and vocal acting is simplified too in nuance in order to make as direct a presentation as possible for its intended television young audience. The visual design shows awareness of the 1925 silent film.

An introductory trail of dramatic scenes includes Christine’s horrified reaction to seeing the Phantom’s face (unshown here). When the story proper begins, it is signed as taking place in Paris in 1890. A city view focusses in on a carriage in which Christine is being escorted by Raoul to the opera house. She tells him that she is taking over from Mme Carlotta in the title role of Juliet that evening, having taken special lessons for three months, from a secret voice that only she can hear. The conversation sets up the backstory in a neat two minutes. Taking over from the suddenly indisposed Carlotta, Christine’s debut is a success (shown with the opening of ‘Je veux vivre’ from Gounod’s  Roméo et Juliette). After the performance, Raoul overhears a male voice in Christine’s dressing room and bursts in, thinking she is with a rival suitor. She tells Raoul the voice is in fact the Spirit of Music. He does not believe her.

The Phantom lures Christine through her dressing room mirror and reveals his is a man, Erik. He takes her against her will into his underground realm, across the lake to his house (with obligatory organ). She is to be kept there with him, and his music will make her love him as he loves her. As he plays for her, she tries in vain to escape. She tears off his mask and reveals his ‘cursed ugliness’. He mocks himself:  ‘I am a kind of Don Juan, don’t you know. [sinister laughter].’ She persuades him to let her go temporarily, with her promise that she will return.

Back in her dressing room, she arranges with Raoul to meet at the opera ball, where she will explain everything. At the ball, the Phantom appears as the Red Death, and follows Christine and Raoul to the rooftop. He eavesdrops on them and discovers what Christine’s true feelings are: she plans to break her promise and escape with Raoul. In retribution, he brings the chandelier down on the opera audience as Christine sings (again ‘Je veux vivre’), kidnapping her in the resulting confusion.

With the assistance of the Daroga (a Chief of Persian Police who has tracked Erik for years), Raoul heads below the opera house to rescue Christine. Leroux’s sequences of the rat catcher’s appearance, the heated torture chamber and Christine’s forced choice between being Erik’s wife (by turning a scorpion) or blowing the opera house and everyone in it up (a grasshopper) are retained. Erik gives in to his better self when Christine does not recoil from him. He releases Christine, Raoul and the Daroga and resigns himself to death now that Christine has kissed him – the first woman ever to do so. As he plays the organ, the vault collapses on top of him.

John Snelson


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