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Claude Rains in Universal horror films


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I dig Claude Rains, and he performed well as Erique Claudin (his Phantom certainly has the most stylish mask of all the Opera Ghosts). But, a common knock on the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera is that it has too much opera and not enough Phantom -- an opinion that I share. Also, it created the annoying template for the Phantom's disfigurement.

In Gaston Leroux's tale, "Erik" was born a hideous freak:

     "According to the Persian's account, Erik was born in a small town not far from Rouen. He was the son of a master-mason. He ran away at an early age from his father's house,
      where his ugliness was a subject of horror and terror to his parents. For a time, he frequented the fairs, where a showman exhibited him as the 'living corpse.' "

Far more macabre than the nasty business of acid being thrown in Erique's face, IMO.

As far as I'm concerned, the 1925 production starring Lon Chaney stands as the best, most faithful, and most horrific adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

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16 hours ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

I dig Claude Rains, and he performed well as Erique Claudin (his Phantom certainly has the most stylish mask of all the Opera Ghosts). But, a common knock on the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera is that it has too much opera and not enough Phantom -- an opinion that I share. Also, it created the annoying template for the Phantom's disfigurement.

In Gaston Leroux's tale, "Erik" was born a hideous freak:

     "According to the Persian's account, Erik was born in a small town not far from Rouen. He was the son of a master-mason. He ran away at an early age from his father's house,
      where his ugliness was a subject of horror and terror to his parents. For a time, he frequented the fairs, where a showman exhibited him as the 'living corpse.' "

Far more macabre than the nasty business of acid being thrown in Erique's face, IMO.

As far as I'm concerned, the 1925 production starring Lon Chaney stands as the best, most faithful, and most horrific adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

Interesting comments. I don't think him being born a freak necessarily makes the story better. What makes the story work for me is he is an outcast loving Christine. And if that happens after the acid throwing incident, then I am okay with it. Actually I think the acid scene is one of the best scenes in the 1943 version because it strips him of his humanity, so the character does this interesting 180-turn well into the story. We see him lose it all in the blink of an eye, literally.

The music is wonderful, the Technicolor is rich, the sets and costumes are exquisite. It won several Oscars in these categories.

What I also think works is the implied father-daughter incest between Erique and Christine which gives their relationship another horrific aspect, much like we see in THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET. These are good looking people caught in ugly situations.

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22 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Interesting comments. I don't think him being born a freak necessarily makes the story better. What makes the story work for me is he is an outcast loving Christine. And if that happens after the acid throwing incident, then I am okay with it. Actually I think the acid scene is one of the best scenes in the 1943 version because it strips him of his humanity, so the character does this interesting 180-turn well into the story. We see him lose it all in the blink of an eye, literally.

The music is wonderful, the Technical is rich, the sets and costumes are exquisite. It won several Oscars in these categories.

What I also think works is the implied father-daughter incest between Erique and Christine which gives their relationship another horrific aspect, much like we see in THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET. These are good looking people caught in ugly situations.

Chacun à son goût, Mon. TopBilled.

For me, the acid in the face plot mechanism is not as, again, macabre nor as tragic as a fiend and outcast cruelly born a monster*.

I don't think that Erique Claudin is stripped of his humanity -- else how could he feel so tenderly and mentorly towards Christine DuBois? All the acid does is simplistically explain and create "The Phantom of the Opera." Claudin was already mad when he attacks the thief Pleyel -- and the reason for his attack is entirely understandable and sympathizing . . . to me anyway. The acid-throwing  is, IMO, a cheap "thrill" -- a facile and lazy gimmick -- and the unmasking scene (the "money shot") is so swift and brief that (for me) it has very little impact and is seemingly pointless -- monumentally paling when compared to the indelible, immortal, and iconic scene in the 1925 rendition.

Leroux's Phantom, by contrast, acts monstrously because he truly has been stripped of his humanity. As "Erik" masochistically hisses, "Look! You want to see? See! Feast your eyes, glut your soul on my cursed ugliness! Look at Erik's face!"

Chaney's agonized, ostracized, dehumanized Phantom further rages:

"If I am the phantom, it is because man's hatred has made me so!"

For me, "Erik" is a fascinatingly complex romantic villain -- engendering horror, pathos, empathy, and pity. Erique Claudin, OTOH, is just a pi$$ed-off musician who got screwed by unscrupulous, avaricious Big Business.

* And here, let us draw a parallel to Joseph Merrick, "The Elephant Man."

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14 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Interesting comments. I don't think him being born a freak necessarily makes the story better. What makes the story work for me is he is an outcast loving Christine. And if that happens after the acid throwing incident, then I am okay with it. Actually I think the acid scene is one of the best scenes in the 1943 version because it strips him of his humanity, so the character does this interesting 180-turn well into the story. We see him lose it all in the blink of an eye, literally.

The music is wonderful, the Technical is rich, the sets and costumes are exquisite. It won several Oscars in these categories.

What I also think works is the implied father-daughter incest between Erique and Christine which gives their relationship another horrific aspect, much like we see in THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET. These are good looking people caught in ugly situations.

The acid on the face scene is a classic horror film moment.  In order for the story to work the Phantom must be hedious- but they toned down the make up for the 1943 version because they did not want to offend soldiers who were coming home disfigured from War World 2.    In one version of the script Christine was suppose to be Eric's daughter. You are right about the film being a feast for the eyes and ears.  In the last remake  with Gerard Buttler they made the Phantom too attractive which takes away from the horror

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13 hours ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

Chacun à son goût, Mon. TopBilled.

For me, the acid in the face plot mechanism is not as, again, macabre nor as tragic as a fiend and outcast cruelly born a monster*.

I don't think that Erique Claudin is stripped of his humanity -- else how could he feel so tenderly and mentorly towards Christine DuBois? All the acid does is simplistically explain and create "The Phantom of the Opera." Claudin was already mad when he attacks the thief Pleyel -- and the reason for his attack is entirely understandable and sympathizing . . . to me anyway. The acid-throwing  is, IMO, a cheap "thrill" -- a facile and lazy gimmick -- and the unmasking scene (the "money shot") is so swift and brief that (for me) it has very little impact and is seemingly pointless -- monumentally paling when compared to the indelible, immortal, and iconic scene in the 1925 rendition.

Leroux's Phantom, by contrast, acts monstrously because he truly has been stripped of his humanity. As "Erik" masochistically hisses, "Look! You want to see? See! Feast your eyes, glut your soul on my cursed ugliness! Look at Erik's face!"

Chaney's agonized, ostracized, dehumanized Phantom further rages:

"If I am the phantom, it is because man's hatred has made me so!"

For me, "Erik" is a fascinatingly complex romantic villain -- engendering horror, pathos, empathy, and pity. Erique Claudin, OTOH, is just a pi$$ed-off musician who got screwed by unscrupulous, avaricious Big Business.

* And here, let us draw a parallel to John Merrick, "The Elephant Man."

You make some good points- yes Eric is very similar to Quasimodo - whose fate is sealed by their looks. In the Lloyd Webber musical they went back to the phantom as super villain but in the movie version they made him too good looking which made no sense- well the director thought Christine would not fall in love with a monster missing the whole point of the story.   Did you ever see the tv version in which the Phantom is never unmasked?

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16 minutes ago, jaragon said:

The acid on the face scene is a classic horror film moment.  In order for the story to work the Phantom must be hedious- but they toned down the make up for the 1943 version because they did not want to offend soldiers who were coming home disfigured from War World 2.    In one version of the script Christine was suppose to be Eric's daughter. You are right about the film being a feast for the eyes and ears.  In the last remake  with Gerard Buttler they made the Phantom too attractive which takes away from the horror

There is a 1962 version with Herbert Lom as the Phantom and Heather Sears as Christine. It was made in England and was a co-production where Universal joined creative forces with Hammer. The acting is excellent and it is in color, but it's not the rich vibrant Technicolor of the 1943 version. And nobody can play the Phantom with as much class and intelligence as Claude Rains.

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5B7A3DBA-E4F9-48B8-B060-79B7D8DE879C_4_5005_c

The British soap Emmerdale  did a gangster plot in 2018 where a good looking criminal in his late 20s was set up by an ex-girlfriend who hired someone to throw acid on him during a car robbery. It was meant as a plot device to get the audience to sympathize towards him, despite all his misdeeds.

screen

They had scenes with him in the hospital where his upper chest, neck and half his face was scarred. And he remained scarred for the whole next year on the show.

screen1

Ultimately they gave Ross Barton a happy ending where a girl fell in love with him not because of how he looked (she had known him when he was attractive, before the acid attack) but she wanted to be with him because he was now tender not so tough and was showing he had a heart. They had a child and left the show together, and we are told they are still living happily ever after.

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7 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

There is a 1962 version with Herbert Lom as the Phantom and Heather Sears as Christine. It was made in England and was a co-production where Universal joined creative forces with Hammer. The acting is excellent and it is in color, but it's not the rich vibrant Technicolor of the 1943 version. And nobody can play the Phantom with as much class and intelligence as Claude Rains.

The British soap Emmerdale  did a gangster plot in 2018 where a good looking criminal in his late 20s was set up by an ex-girlfriend who hired someone to throw acid on him during a car robbery. It was meant as a plot device to get the audience to sympathize towards him, despite all his misdeeds.

They had scenes with him in the hospital where his upper chest, neck and half his face was scarred. And he remained scarred for the whole next year on the show. Ultimately they gave him a happy ending where a girl fell in love with him not because of how he looked (she had known him when he was attractive, before the acid attack) but she wanted to be with him because he was now tender not so tough and was showing he had a heart. They had a child and left the show together, and we are told they are still living happily ever after.

Herbert Lom was a good actor but he is not Claude Rains - The Hammer version looks cheap next to the gorgeous  1943 production. I read somewhere that Cary Grant- yes that Cary Grant was interested in doing a Hammer film and that the remake of "Phantom ' was written for him- but I can't imagine what role he would've played?

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

5B7A3DBA-E4F9-48B8-B060-79B7D8DE879C_4_5005_c

The British soap Emmerdale  did a gangster plot in 2018 where a good looking criminal in his late 20s was set up by an ex-girlfriend who hired someone to throw acid on him during a car robbery. It was meant as a plot device to get the audience to sympathize towards him, despite all his misdeeds.

screen

They had scenes with him in the hospital where his upper chest, neck and half his face was scarred. And he remained scarred for the whole next year on the show.

screen1

Ultimately they gave Ross Barton a happy ending where a girl fell in love with him not because of how he looked (she had known him when he was attractive, before the acid attack) but she wanted to be with him because he was now tender not so tough and was showing he had a heart. They had a child and left the show together, and we are told they are still living happily ever after.

You can't blame the girl he still looks good even with the scars,

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7 minutes ago, jaragon said:

You can't blame the girl he still looks good even with the scars,

If I remember correctly, spoilers said someone would be the victim of an acid attack. Episodes leading up to it suggested it might be someone else. So when we saw Ross, good looking bad boy, get doused with acid it was truly shocking. 

As you can see here, the culprit just came out of nowhere:

 

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7 hours ago, TopBilled said:

There is a 1962 version with Herbert Lom as the Phantom and Heather Sears as Christine. It was made in England and was a co-production where Universal joined creative forces with Hammer. The acting is excellent and it is in color, but it's not the rich vibrant Technicolor of the 1943 version. And nobody can play the Phantom with as much class and intelligence as Claude Rains.

I'm not only familiar with the 1962 Hammer Film version, I've got it in my movie library -- along with the 1925 classic and the '43 remake. I also own Phantom of the Paradise, Brian DePalma's estimable take on Gaston Leroux's story. Needless to say, I enjoy all those adaptations.

jaragon mentioned that Cary Grant had expressed interest in appearing in a Hammer Film. The script for The Phantom of the Opera was written with Grant in mind (his role was to have been hero Harry Hunter, ultimately portrayed by Edward de Souza). According to everything that I've read, nobody at Hammer seriously expected that Grant would appear in The Phantom of the Opera). After cursorily reading Leroux's thriller on the Project Gutenberg site, I was surprised to learn that the rat-catcher (memorably portrayed by Patrick Troughton in Hammer's version) was indeed a character in Leroux's story. I had thought that he was a Hammer Films invention.

Similar with the 1943 Universal flick, Hammer Films' interpretation (even more egregiously, perfunctorily, and ridiculously) throws away the key scene and movie's raison d'être . This time The Phantom himself removes his mask -- for no good reason except that it's required (well, somebody has to do it)!

According to report, Greta Garbo cried out, "Give me back my beast!" after the transformation of the titular bête into Jean Marais in Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête.

Well, in response to the 1943 and 1962 watered-down alterations of Leroux's classic, I cry, "Give me back my Phantom!"

 

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8 hours ago, jaragon said:

The acid on the face scene is a classic horror film moment.  In order for the story to work the Phantom must be hedious- but they toned down the make up for the 1943 version because they did not want to offend soldiers who were coming home disfigured from War World 2 . . .

Thank you for the explanation. Rather pointless, IMO, for Universal to bother with a remake if it wasn't going to do it right. The phrase "Go heavy or go home!" springs to my mind.

8 hours ago, jaragon said:

In the Lloyd Webber musical they went back to the phantom as super villain but in the movie version they made him too good looking which made no sense- well the director thought Christine would not fall in love with a monster missing the whole point of the story.   Did you ever see the tv version in which the Phantom is never unmasked?

Andrew Lloyd Webber emphasized the "Angel of Music" angle (and also the romantic theme), which I was, again, surprised is a phrase that appears in Gaston Leroux's novel. Again, too much opera and not enough Phantom for my taste.

To which TV version are you referring? Is it the one with Burt Lancaster and Charles Dance (as The Phantom)?

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12 hours ago, TopBilled said:

5B7A3DBA-E4F9-48B8-B060-79B7D8DE879C_4_5005_c

The British soap Emmerdale  did a gangster plot in 2018 where a good looking criminal in his late 20s was set up by an ex-girlfriend who hired someone to throw acid on him during a car robbery. It was meant as a plot device to get the audience to sympathize towards him, despite all his misdeeds.

screen

They had scenes with him in the hospital where his upper chest, neck and half his face was scarred. And he remained scarred for the whole next year on the show.

screen1

Ultimately they gave Ross Barton a happy ending where a girl fell in love with him not because of how he looked (she had known him when he was attractive, before the acid attack) but she wanted to be with him because he was now tender not so tough and was showing he had a heart. They had a child and left the show together, and we are told they are still living happily ever after.

Makes me wonder how many movies, TV shows, plays there are where acid (or some caustic substance) is thrown into someone's face.

Offhand, one of the nastier examples is Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) scalding Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) with hot coffee in The Big Heat. Ditto Debby's revenge against Vince (funny, because Vince never has a second cup of coffee).

During October, TCM will be showing The Hypnotic Eye, which contains some seriously twisted disfigurement scenes.
 

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14 minutes ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

Makes me wonder how many movies, TV shows, plays there are where acid (or some caustic substance) is thrown into someone's face.

Offhand, one of the nastier examples is Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) scalding Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) with hot coffee in The Big Heat. Ditto Debby's revenge against Vince (funny, because Vince never has a second cup of coffee).

During October, TCM will be showing The Hypnotic Eye, which contains some seriously twisted disfigurement scenes.
 

Yes, it would be an interesting theme for the programmers to explore if they scheduled a bunch of these kinds of movies back-to-back.

In the case of the storyline on Emmerdale, actor Michael Parr (who played Ross Barton the victim of the acid attack) said the writers decided to do this because there was a real-life case of someone in England being badly burned by acid in a hate-crime attack. They wanted to raise awareness about these kinds of dangers.

But I do think they probably drew some inspiration from Phantom of the Opera. Because they were able to have the character of Ross challenge his own vanity and redefine his masculinity due to becoming vulnerable in this way. It was a great storyline and Parr played the hell out of it.

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14 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Yes, it would be an interesting theme for the programmers to explore if they scheduled a bunch of these kinds of movies back-to-back.

In the case of the storyline on Emmerdale, actor Michael Parr (who played Ross Barton the victim of the acid attack) said the writers decided to do this because there was a real-life case of someone in England being badly burned by acid in a hate-crime attack. They wanted to raise awareness about these kinds of dangers.

But I do think they probably drew some inspiration from Phantom of the Opera. Because they were able to have the character of Ross challenge his own vanity and redefine his masculinity due to becoming vulnerable in this way. It was a great storyline and Parr played the hell out of it.

I think this has been used many times in fiction- how does the character react after the attack- do they go mad and do evil or become better people because of it?

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7 minutes ago, jaragon said:

I think this has been used many times in fiction- how does the character react after the attack- do they go mad and do evil or become better people because of it?

On American soaps there is a modified version used for female characters...she's a schemer, trying to break up a happy home, and she gets her comeuppance by getting scarred (usually burned in a fire). And she has to go through plastic surgery and a period where she atones for her sins.

They did this with Barbara Ryan (Colleen Zenk) on As the World Turns in the early 2000s. And more recently, about two years ago on General Hospital with Ava Jerome (Maura West).

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15 hours ago, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

Thank you for the explanation. Rather pointless, IMO, for Universal to bother with a remake if it wasn't going to do it right. The phrase "Go heavy or go home!" springs to my mind.

Andrew Lloyd Webber emphasized the "Angel of Music" angle (and also the romantic theme), which I was, again, surprised is a phrase that appears in Gaston Leroux's novel. Again, too much opera and not enough Phantom for my taste.

To which TV version are you referring? Is it the one with Burt Lancaster and Charles Dance (as The Phantom)?

Yes to the one with Charles Dance as The Phantom- which was based on a musical that was planned before the Lloyd Webber  version-  Universal wanted a prestige picture that year and they turned Phantom into an MGM type horror show - more class less horror and if you cast Nelson Eddy he has to sing more than once-

 

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4 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

On American soaps there is a modified version used for female characters...she's a schemer, trying to break up a happy home, and she gets her comeuppance by getting scarred (usually burned in a fire). And she has to go through plastic surgery and a period where she atones for her sins.

They did this with Barbara Ryan (Colleen Zenk) on As the World Turns in the early 2000s. And more recently, about two years ago on General Hospital with Ava Jerome (Maura West).

In Batman you have Two Face

 

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2 minutes ago, jaragon said:

In Batman you have Two Face

 

Yes, that's another example.

***

With Barbara on As the World Turns, she wore a black veil to cover her scars. With Ava on General Hospital, the character had a mask.

58D48F32-4474-419D-BCB3-1BE7E54CDC1F_1_201_a

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On 8/27/2021 at 5:28 PM, Eucalpytus P. Millstone said:

I'm not only familiar with the 1962 Hammer Film version, I've got it in my movie library -- along with the 1925 classic and the '43 remake. I also own Phantom of the Paradise, Brian DePalma's estimable take on Gaston Leroux's story. Needless to say, I enjoy all those adaptations.

Have you written reviews for all three of these adaptations?

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On 8/29/2021 at 2:58 PM, TopBilled said:

Have you written reviews for all three of these adaptations?

Nope!

I briefly wrote DVD reviews for a (now defunct) magazine devoted to mystery and horror movies . . . for no pay and strictly the "glory" of being published.

I've since grown up and learned my lesson.

These days I don't waste time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears writing reviews for anything (attention, Amazon!) unless my palm is stained with filthy lucre.

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