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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera (1998)
Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera (1998)
A-Pix // Unrated // January 1, 1998
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chris Hughes | posted March 9, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Features: Widescreen Anamorphic - 1.85:1. Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1. Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1). Director's Cut. Production notes. Interview with actor Julian Sands. Behind-the-scenes footage. Article from Fangoria magazine. Theatrical & Video Trailers. Photo Gallery.

The Movie:
Italian director Dario Argento is considered by many to be one of the world's greatest horror directors. Argento's best-known film is Suspiria and it, along with a handful of others, is an established classic. In recent years his films have met with a decided lack of critical acclaim but with the release of Phantom of the Opera his fans had hoped for a return to classic form.

Argento's Phantom of the Opera bears little resemblance to the book on which it's based. There's a mad man living under the Paris Opera House who perpetrates a series of murders and lures a beautiful singer into his lair but the similarity end there. Julian Sands plays the Phantom (sans scars) as a sort of psychotic Fabio who was raised by rats. Yes, you read that right: he was raised by rats.

If you go into Phantom of the Opera with expectations of seeing a serious thriller you'll be severely disappointed. This film is one of the rare few that's so unrelentingly bad that it's actually good. From the opening scene, complete with animatronic rats sporting red-glowing eyes, the film presents the most improbable situations, impossibly bad acting and some of the worst 'special' effects I've ever seen. This is big budget Euro-camp at its finest and I laughed all the way through. I loved this film for all the wrong reasons. Even the menus are funny.

Favorite Moments:

  • The tongue ripping scene.
  • The erotic rat scene (don't worry, it's not explicit)
  • In the co-ed bath house amidst debauchery of epic proportions a fist fight breaks out between two gray-suited gentlemen over who's the better French poet: Baudelaire or Rimbaud.
The Picture:
Phantom of the Opera is released by A-Pix, a studio known for their generally sub-standard transfers, but they've done a surprisingly good job with this DVD. The film elements are fairly clean and the anamorphic transfer is free of digital artifacts, exhibits very good contrast, deep shadow detail and rich colors.

The Sound:
The Dolby 5.1 audio track is simply splendid. It adds another level of comedy to this already hilarious picture. There are copious swirling surround effects, lots of silly ambient noises and more LFE thumps than you can shake a stick at. All of the gloriously goofy set pieces are pushed over the top by the aggressive audio track. Best of all the engineers were careful not to bury the campy dialogue under effects and music so you won't miss a single side splitting line.

The Extras:
The extra content is interesting because it takes this film so seriously. First off there are a couple of theatrical trailers showing how the studio intended to market this movie as a taut erotic thriller. Next up there's an interview with Julian Sands in which he waxes rhapsodic over Argento's artistry and the psychological depth of his rat-man Phantom. A short series of behind the scenes clips show the film in production but aren't very revealing. Text screens include the usual talent bios and there's a surprisingly long (over a dozen screens) article from Fangoria magazine (rife with grammatical errors and even misspellings) that's so bad that it has to be read to be believed. Finally there's a photo gallery showing clips from the film and a handful of production stills.

Conclusion:
If the merit of a movie is based on the level of enjoyment one got out of it then Phantom of the Opera is surely a fine film. I laughed non-stop from the first frame to the last and even though the director probably never intended it to be a comedy Phantom of the Opera worked on that level for me. Serious Argento fans may be disappointed by Phantom and those without a stomach for camp are going to want to avoid it but if you have a good since of humor and get a kick out of really bad films you'll want this one in your library.
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