The Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture

The Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture Information

The Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture is a 1989 American horror film directed by Dwight H. Little and based on Gaston Leroux's novel of the same name.

The film is a newer, gorier version of the classic 1910 tale, and has A Nightmare on Elm Streets Robert Englund playing the Phantom. Christine Day is a young Broadway singer in New York City auditioning for a show, who comes across an old piece of music written nearly 100 years before by an unknown musician named Erik Destler. Destler, it seems, had made a pact with the devil (maybe by accident) so the world would love his music. The catch was Erik's face would be left horribly disfigured forever. Once Christine sings his music for an audition, she is hit with a sandbag. Thus follows a presumed flashback into the past roughly around 1881, where she was the star in the London Opera House. There she is coached by a mysterious "Phantom" who will do anything to make his protégé a star, even if it means murder. Christine soon finds out that her teacher is in fact Destler, whom she comes to loathe.


Christine Day is an opera singer in modern day Manhattan who is searching for a unique piece to sing at her next audition. Her friend and manager Meg discovers an old opera piece called Don Juan Triumphant, written by a composer named Erik Destler. Curious, Christine and Meg do a little digging on Destler, and discover he may have been responsible for many murders and the disappearance of a young female opera singer he was said to have been obsessed with. While Christine is alone, she sings from the tattered parchment and blood seeps from the notes and covers her hands. Shocked, she discovers this to be an illusion when Meg returns.

Christine auditions with the piece and during her performance, an accident with a falling sandbag renders her unconscious and shatters a mirror. She awakens in London in 1881, wearing opera clothing. A different version of Meg is also there. Christine turns out to be the understudy to the diva La Carlotta, who is both jealous and resentful of Christine's skill. During this whole time, Erik Destler attacks the scene-shifter Joseph with a blade high above the rafters for almost killing Christine with the falling sandbag, and blaming the accident on him.

Alone in her dressing room after she recovers, Christine receives a vision and a message from a masked Erik Destler, revealing he is her teacher and an angel sent by her deceased father. Destler encourages her to practice Carlotta's part of Marguerite in Faust, saying that only she can sing the part as it was meant to be sung. Christine complies. That evening, Carlotta discovers Joseph's skinned (but barely alive) body in her dressing closet. The event causes her to scream and lose her voice. Christine is then cast in the role of Marguerite, which causes a panic to the opera house owner Martin Barton, who favors Carlotta and the prestige she brings to his opera house.

During the scene where Dr. Faust signs his soul to the Devil, Destler reminisces about a time, perhaps decades ago, when he sold his own soul to the Devil in exchange for people loving him for his music. The Devil grants his wish, but burns and disfigures Destler's face, telling him that only his music will be what people love him for.

Christine gives a stellar performance and receives a standing ovation, and celebrates that night with her fiancee Richard. She tells him of her mysterious "teacher", to whom she accredits her success. A mildly jealous Richard asks to meet this teacher, but Christine insists her teacher is only a figment of her imagination. Shockingly, the next morning in the papers, Christine is given a mediocre review by the famous opera critic Harrison, secretly done as a favor to Barton. Destler tracks Harrison down and brutally murders him in a Turkish spa after Harrison refuses to recant his review. Destler's further obsession with Christine (as well as his supernatural prowess) is revealed when he single-handedly murders several thugs and later orders a prostitute to call herself "Christine".

Christine hears of Harrison's murder through Meg, and tearfully goes to a graveyard and prays next to the grave of her father. Destler appears as a shadowy violinist and offers her a chance at musical immortality if she will only go to him. Christine goes away with the Phantom in his stagecoach just as Richard arrives. Deep in the sewers below London's opera house, Destler reveals himself as the composer of Don Juan Triumphant, which causes a spark of recollection within Christine. Destler then places a ring upon her finger and warns her never to see another man again.

Richard goes to the police and, along with Inspector Hawkins, decides to track down the Phantom. Hawkins reveals to Richard that the Phantom is not only Erik Destler, but Destler has lived for centuries, uses the opera house's catacombs as a hideout, and skins his murdered victims for their facial skin to cover his own hideous visage. Hawkins also tells him the only way to kill the Phantom is to destroy his music.

Later, at a masquerade ball, Christine meets up with Richard and warns him about the Phantom, revealing him as her "teacher". Erik, disguised, sees this exchange and becomes enraged and murders Carlotta and kidnaps Christine. Hawkins, Richard and the rat catcher whom Destler has been bribing in the past go quickly in pursuit. They become lost in the sewers, and Destler murders two policemen as well as the homeless man for betraying him.

Back in the Phantom's lair, an enraged Destler attempts to rape Christine but Richard and the Inspector burst in. During a struggle with the Phantom, Richard is stabbed with a candle holder, set afire, and killed. At the same moment, a wounded Hawkins manages to shoot Destler several times while Christine pushes a lamp through a mirror, sending her back to present-day Manhattan.

Christine awakens and is comforted by the opera's producer Mr. Foster, who offers her the leading part. At his apartment, they have drinks and Foster goes upstairs to tidy up and finds a blemish on his face. It is then discovered that Foster is Destler from long ago, and he goes to change his facial skin with synthetic ones he keeps in a special lab. Meanwhile, downstairs, Christine plays part of the song from a recording of Don Juan Triumphant and horribly realizes that Foster is Destler, as they both look remarkably alike. Foster/Destler surprises her and reveals his true self to her and forcibly kisses her. Christine stabs him and escapes taking his music and tears it apart before letting it drop into the gutter, whilst Foster/Destler is heard screaming. On her way home, Christine passes by a street violin player, whom she gives some money to. The violinist slowly follows her, playing the familiar theme from Don Juan Triumphant. Christine looks back and reflects on the music for awhile. Then, very resolutely, she turns around and continues on her way, wondering if Destler is really gone for good.


  • Robert Englund as Erik Destler/The Phantom of the Opera, a disfigured homicidal musical genius who falls in love with Christine Day
  • Jill Schoelen as Christine Day, an innocent and sweet soprano
  • Alex Hyde-White as Richard Dutton, a businessman, opera patron, and Christine's lover
  • Bill Nighy as Martin Barton, the Opera's manager and Carlotta's boyfriend
  • Stephanie Lawrence as La Carlotta, the pampered, spoiled leading diva; a bratty and selfish woman
  • Molly Shannon as Meg (New York)
  • Terence Harvey as Inspector Hawkins
  • Nathan Lewis as Davies
  • Peter Clapham as Harrison
  • Emma Rawson as Meg (London)
  • Mark Ryan as Mott
  • Yehuda Efroni as The Rat Catcher
  • Terence Beesley as Joseph Buquet


Fans of the film regard the soundtrack to be especially underrated. The original music written for the film by Misha Segal (also known for the soundtrack to The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking) won a 1989 Brit for best soundtrack. Of particular interest to fans of the original novel is Segal's rendition of the Phantom's opera composition 'Don Juan Triumphant' with the Phantom on the organ and Christine singing.

Version of arietta "Your eyes see but my shadow" with chorus

Irina Sakne (soprano); Academic big chorus of Russian Mendeleyev University

Like in the novel and silent film version, Christine is seen performing as Marguerite in a production of Gounod's Faust, though this time we actually hear her voice. Appearing in the background of the performance are the figures of Faust and Mephisto (symbolic of the Phantom's own pact with the Devil in this film). Christine's singing of recitatives from Gounod's Faust score is more faithful to the original novel than the Lloyd-Webber musical and film: in which an imaginary opera is invented for the occasion.

Comparison with the original and other versions

In this version of The Phantom of the Opera, the main action is transferred from Leroux's Paris Opera House to a London Opera House of the same period (but unlike the original, and most of the other adaptations, there is no falling chandelier scene). However in many respects this film is more faithful to the spirit and letter of the original than many other better known adaptations. In particular the Faustian element present in the book is emphasized - with a staging of Gounod's Faust as in the original, here a reminder of Erik's Satanic pact. The rat catcher is included in this version. The sadism of Leroux's original Erik, who, as in the novel, festoons the Opera with rope traps, is retained here, unlike in more sentimental versions. In a gory touch, the Phantom's original black mask is now a mask stitched together out of the flesh of his victims. The mysterious violinist at the cemetery is also retained in this version. Of the other characters Carlotta is here decapitated by the Phantom (unlike the novel where she survives), Richard (the Raoul figure of this version) is set ablaze, and the Rat Catcher of the sewers meets a grisly fate.

The Phantom's disfigurement

In this version, Erik's face is burned by the devil's touch. A great quantity of skin is absent on the right side of his face, and his nose lacks skin, of which is present on the back of his head, and he only has a few strands of hair. One of his ears is missing, and he has no teeth. As time passes more skin comes off, as if he is decomposing.


Critical reception

The Phantom of the Opera currently holds a 38% 'Rotten' rating on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

Box office

The film was a box office failure when released, grossing just under $4 million in the US. This can probably be attributed to an over-saturation of horror films in theaters in 1989, a trend which also hurt the box office of the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th sequels, as well as the poor timing of releasing a horror-themed Phantom film at the height of popularity for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Planned sequel

Englund was under contract to appear in a sequel, but it was canceled after the film's poor reception, and has been the subject of numerous rumors. Fangoria Magazine claimed in 1991 that the script was re-written into what became 1992's Dance Macabre, also starring Englund.

Englund confirmed in a 2004 interview that a script had been written, and while he personally felt it was superior to the first film, it had never been filmed in any capacity. In 2012, Englund was asked at a memorabilia about the possibility of a sequel happening in the near future, Englund informed everybody in attendance that although it would be overwhelming to see a sequel, the chances of it happening at this stage are "highly unlikely".

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