Dwight Little’s underrated take on The Phantom Of The Opera was not a hit in its time but built up a cult following over time via home video. It has recently graduated to the world of high definition thanks to Scream Factory and the results are likely to please horror fans. Not only does it deliver a nice transfer, it offers a set of supplements that treat the film with a genuine, “special edition” level of respect.
Things start off nicely with a transfer that does well by a challenging title: the velvety color scheme of the visuals has a nice depth here and the detail level benefits nicely from the high-def bump. Both 2.0 and 5.1 stereo remix tracks are provided in lossless form for this transfer: the 5.1 track can sound a little “hollow” at times in how it handles the dialogue but gives a nice surround boost to the music. However, the 2.0 track offers the most balanced and authentic-sounding blend of elements.
The extras offer a one-two punch of in-depth supplements in the form of a commentary track and an expansive new featurette from Red Shirt Pictures. The commentary pairs director Dwight Little with star Robert Englund and it’s an enthusiastic, fast-moving piece of work.
Little and Englund have a nice rapport and approach the film in a fond yet unpretentious manner as they discuss the film’s sudden genesis, battling with producers for creative control, how several different practical FX scenes were done and some interesting tales of working in Budapest near the end of the Cold War. Little is humble but possessed of a sharp memory and Englund is endearingly enthusiastic, showing off his cinephile chops as he enthuses over the credits of his fellow cast and joining the rich history of Phantom adaptations.
Even better is “Behind The Mask,” a nearly 38-minute retrospective featurette that includes from Englund, Little, screenwriter Duke Sandefur, actors Alex Hyde-White and Jill Schoelen, FX designer Jeff Yagher and many more. It reveals tons about the film, including the combination of chance factors inspired Menahem Golan to make the film, the complexity of Yagher’s makeup design, how Misha Segal wrote new arias to match classical material for the score and what the film’s unmade sequel would have been like. Everyone involved has fondness for this film, even if some are critical of its gruesome excesses, and Schoelen touching reveals how making films like The Phantom Of The Opera opened up her world to new experiences and new places.
A variety of promotional materials complete the extras. A theatrical trailer sells the film as a romance-tinged prestige production, clearly courting the Andrew Lloyd Webber crowd, while a t.v. spot aims for the horror crowd, playing up Englund and his A Nightmare On Elm Street connection. Two 60-second radio spots work along the same lines as the t.v. spot. A still gallery offers 65 images worth of publicity photos and stills, including a look at a decapitation that was edited down in the film, and a few bits of promo art. Finally, a “more from Scream Factory” trailer gallery appropriately includes Phantom Of The Paradise as well as Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh and From A Whisper To A Scream.
All in all, this disc of The Phantom Of The Opera offers another fine example of Scream Factory giving the deluxe treatment to an unsung but worthy horror film from the ’80s. Here’s to hoping they make many more special editions like it.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Phantom Of The Opera (1989), click here.