Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Phantom of The Opera, by Philip J. Riley

 I grew up hearing endless stories from my grandfather about his childhood idol, Lon Chaney, or "The Man of 1,000 Faces" as gramps referred to him. It wasn't easy to find silent movies on broadcast TV in The Bronx back in the '70's, so I never had the pleasure of actually watching a Chaney film with my grandfather, but as I've grown older, mostly thanks to TCM, I've become quite a fan of the man and his films, especially THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

  I had no idea that Chaney's PHANTOM had such a tortured history until I read Philip J. Riley's outstanding book about the making of the film and its aftermath. (This is a new edition of the book, which was originally published in 1999.) Riley's exhaustively researched tome covers everything you could ever possibly want to know about the making of the film, and includes tons of incredible photos of sets, actors, Chaney and his amazing makeup, interviews with cast and crew members, vintage promotional materials and magazine articles related to the film, and even a full shooting script, complete with vintage annotations on the pages.

 When I said exhaustive, I wasn't kidding...The book will probably be a slog for anyone who is not totally enamored with Chaney's PHANTOM. It was tough going for me at times, and it took me a long time to finish, but it was a uniquely rewarding read....It was fascinating to learn of the studio's behind-the-scenes doubts about the massive production, and I never knew just how many different versions of this film were released. This is a true time capsule, dissecting a film that richly deserves its status as a classic. Movie fans will love this book, and BearManor Media deserves special thanks for making it available again.

 BearManor media provided a review copy.