Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Next up: 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925)
on Thursday, Oct. 25 in Plymouth, N.H.

What better way to get in a Halloween mood than seeing Lon Chaney terrorize the Parisian music world in the original silent film version of 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925). That's what we'll be showing on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center up in Plymouth, N.H.

I'm posting the press release below, which has all the info you'll need to join in. One thing that's especially interesting to me, however, is that the massive theater set originally built for 'Phantom' still stands as part of the Universal Studios complex, and continues to be used in contemporary films. Most recently, it stood in as the abandoned Muppet Show Theater for the 2011 film 'The Muppets.'

Here's what the set looks like in 'Phantom':

And here it is, nearly 90 years later, in 'The Muppets':

I'm not sure if the proscenium in the above scene was the same in 'Phantom,' but the box seats off to the sides certainly are. For more info, check out this description from a Web version of the Universal Studios Tour.

Okay, here's the press release:

* * *

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Phantom of the Opera' at Flying Monkey on Thursday, Oct. 25

Classic silent horror film starring Lon Chaney to be screened with live music week before Halloween

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—It was cinema's first real shocker—a movie so frightening that its original audiences would shriek in terror and even faint. It was 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925), the silent horror film starring legendary actor Lon Chaney. The classic tale of the mad musician who lurks in the shadows of the Paris Opera House will be revived with live music on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

The screening, the latest in the Flying Monkey's silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating scores for silent films. Admission is $10 per person.

'The Phantom of the Opera,' adapted from a 19th century novel by French author Gaston Leroux, featured Lon Chaney as the deformed Phantom who haunts the depths of the opera house. The Phantom, seen only in the shadows, causes murder and mayhem in an attempt to force the opera's management to make the woman he loves into a star.

The film is most famous for Lon Chaney's intentionally horrific, self-applied make-up, which was kept a studio secret until the film's premiere. Chaney transformed his face by painting his eye sockets black, giving a skull-like impression to them. He also pulled the tip of his nose up and pinned it in place with wire, enlarged his nostrils with black paint, and put a set of jagged false teeth into his mouth to complete the ghastly deformed look of the Phantom.

Chaney's disfigured face is kept covered in the film until the now-famous unmasking scene, which prompted the film's original audiences to shriek in terror.

"No one had ever seen anything like this before," said Rapsis, who will accompany the film. "Chaney, with his portrayal of 'The Phantom,' really pushed the boundaries of what movies could do."

Chaney, known as the "Man of a Thousand Faces" due to his versatility with make-up, also played Quasimodo in the silent 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) and circus performer 'Alonzo the Armless' in Tod Browning's 'The Unknown' (1927).

The large cast of 'Phantom of the Opera' includes Mary Philbin as Christine DaaƩ, as the Phantom's love interest; character actor Snitz Edwards; and many other stars of the silent period.

Despite its reputation for scariness, 'The Phantom of the Opera' proved so popular in its original release and again in a 1930 reissue that it led Universal Studios to embark on a series of horror films, many of which are also regarded as true classics of the genre, including Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and The Mummy (1932).

The silent film version of 'Phantom' also paved the way for numerous other adaptations, up to and including the wildly successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical from 1986 that continues to run on Broadway and in productions around the world.

The original silent 'Phantom' featured lavish sets, including a large theater designed to represent the sprawling interior of the Paris Opera House. After shooting was complete, the set was never torn down and continues in use today as part of Universal's Stage 28; it was seen most recently in 2011's 'The Muppet Movie' as the abandoned Muppet Show theater.

Organizers say the original silent film version of 'The Phantom of the Opera' is not only a great movie, but also a great way for families to get into the Halloween spirit.

And above all, everyone should be prepared to get scared.

"Remember—in silent film, no one can hear you scream," Rapsis said.

The Flying Monkey's monthly silent film series aims to honor the recently renovated venue's historic roots as a local moviehouse that dates back to the early days of motion pictures.

Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician, said 'The Phantom of the Opera' was not made to be shown on television or viewed on home entertainment centers. In reviving silent films, the Flying Monkey aims to show them as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who improvises accompaniment as a film is screened. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early Hollywood leap back to life in ways that can still move audiences today. They all featured great stories with compelling characters and universal appeal, so it's no surprise that we still respond to them."

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (1925), the classic silent horror film starring Lon Chaney, will be shown on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission is $10 per person. For more info, call (603) 536-2551 or visit For more info on the music, visit

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