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!