The Phantom of The Opera (1990 – with Charles Dance!)

A recent Twitter discussion mentioned the 1990 ABC/Disney production of Phantom of the Opera. At mention of the name, a long-forgotten door blew open within the crumbling, decrepit Memory Palace of mind, and suddenly I was 12 again.

Confession: I’ve never cared much about the Andrew Lloyd Webber production, and this television series is why. It had everything a 12-year-old romantic’s seething, fevered heart could want: unrequited love, misunderstood romantic gestures, flowing poet shirts, sword fights, caves, capes, opera, and fantastic costumes. Yes, the Webber version has all that, but I saw this one first.

If you are already a fan or if you just like Charles Dance and want to check it out, it is uploaded to Youtube in two halves. I’ve embedded the first half below. The titles are in German, but the show is in English. I can’t recommend it highly enough – filmed in the actual Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, with spectacular costumes and a beautiful, unique score by John Addison, it presents a romantic, tragic version of the Phantom and gives equal time to Christine’s journey as an ingenue singer. Although usually a more sedate villain (at least in recent years), Dance in the tv series is more physical – he leaps, runs, swordfights, climbs, and yet can still intimidate with his piercing eyes and tall frame. His Phantom is the best parts of the 20th century’s most famous Draculas – Bela Lugosi’s courtly manners and hypnotic menace combined with the tigerlike attacks and sexual charisma of Christopher Lee. Most actors have trouble projecting through masks – since most of Dance’s most memorable roles required him to be restrained to the point of frosty, a mask was almost the perfect counterbalance to negate his coldness – in Phantom, he’s warm, earnest, even silly or funny sometimes, and more likeable than ever.

For a deeper dive, please keep reading. There will be spoilers!

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Update!

The business of life has been more wearying than usual lately. I’m doing my best to keep productive and upbeat, but daily horrors on the news are making it an uphill slog.

Currently I’m working on a nice big post about Eddie Murphy and how I miss his creative output (yes, I know he’s still alive). Lots of fun rehashes of some of his best work, both old and … well, mostly old because I haven’t seen much of his work lately. But anyway, stay tuned for that! I’m also three episodes into Stranger Things, the Netflix series that basically has distilled American 80s film culture into a potent brew. I’m loving it so far! When I’m done I’ll do a write-up on that, too.

In the meantime, please enjoy this charming little song, The Unquiet Grave. It’s a folk song about a man in love with a ghost, and dates back to 14th century England. A version of it appeared on Penny Dreadful, sung first by Evelyn Poole and then refrained by her daughter, which is where I first heard of it. After a little digging I found the whole song, sung by a woman with a lovely plaintive voice in a slightly faster tempo than it appeared in the show. I’ll post the lyrics below, with some additional punctuation to make the speakers  more clear.

The Unquiet Grave

Cold blows the wind to my true love
and gently drops the rain
I only had but one true love
and in Greenwood she lies slain.

I’ll do as much for my true love
as any young girl may.
I’ll sit and mourn upon her grave
for twelve month and a day.

When the twelve months and one day had passed
her ghost began to speak,
“Why sittest thou all on my grave
and will not let me sleep?”

There is one thing that I want sweetheart,
there is one thing that I crave.
And that is a kiss from your lily white lips,
then I’ll go from your grave.

“My lips they are as cold as clay,
my breath smells earthy strong
And if you kiss my cold clay lips,
your days they won’t be long.

Go fetch me water from the desert
and blood from out of stone,
Go fetch me milk from a fair maid’s breast
that a young man never has known.”

T’was down in Cupid’s garden
where you and I would walk.
The finest flower that ever I saw
is withered to a stalk.

“The stalk is withered and dry sweetheart,
the flower will never return.”
And since I lost my one true love,
what can I do but mourn?

When shall we meet again, sweetheart,
when shall me meet again?
“When the old dead leaves that fall from the trees
are green and spring up again.”

When shall we meet again, sweetheart,
when shall me meet again?
“When the old dead leaves that fall from the trees
are green and spring up again.”

I hope your week is going well!

 

 

Stranger In a Strange, Terrible Land

I cleaned myself up and ventured out in search of food and entertainment. Happily, Deadpool was playing at my favorite local place, so I saw that while eating mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers.

Sometime around my birthday last year, someone wished me happy birthday. Lots of people did, but this person’s well-wish stood out, because of its ominous addendum:

“Happy 37th Birthday! Welcome to the land of the two-day hangover!” 

I wish I could remember who it was; less because I want to tell them that they are right, than because I want to get the next winning lotto numbers from them; because they spoke horrible, horrible truth.

Here is a breakdown of my weekend.

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