It's strange how certain things come back into your life and Phantom has slowly crept in these past few months, I've rewatched films, seen some more fan appreciation for various adaptations, and even re-read the book so let's talk more films of this beyond niche corner of popular literature. Now I've heard about the Schell version almost immediately in my first and most severe obsession with Phantom Of The Opera way, way back in about 2008 or 2009 but I've only just seen it for the first time. So how was it? In terms of movies it's about lower mid tier of adaptations. They shift the setting from turn of the 20th century Paris to about 1920s-30s Budapest, which brownie points for the crew actually shooting on location there, as we meet composer Sandor Korvin and his fiancee Elena who's a debutting opera singer and after a pretty convoluted and not super well defined reason of the manager sabotaging her career, Elena drowns herself and leads Korvin to seek revenge. And yes this is one of those versions where the Phantom is scarred by acid instead of being deformed, a popular trope since the 1930s chinese version Song At Midnight, but here it's not handled nearly as well. What confuses matters even more for me is Korvin is rescued from acid disfiguring and being almost burned alive by this character who seems to be a mix of the ratcatcher and mute assistant from the Herbert Lom version who inexplicably is outside but not only that, he takes Korvin to his soon to be subterranean lair, and even picks out the mask for him. This boggles my mind and quite frankly takes away defining moments for the Phantom. An indeterminate period of time elapses as we are introduced to new budding opera singer Maria who catches the eye of the Phantom, but not due to just fancying her for her talent and looks but because she looks similar to Korvin's dead wife. Not a fan of such changes, they really love interjecting a reason why the Phantom loves Christine in movies instead of it being a natural attraction (or about as natural a romance as you can get with a creepy mask wearing cave dweller). Oh Christine is his dead wife reincarnated, Christine is his daughter, Christine is the only woman to do his music justice, and it just doesn't work. And to compound that fact that there really isn't any romance or love triangle here, our Raoul equivalent is a posh englishman played by Michael York, and admittedly I actually liked how they weren't making googly eyes at each other from the start and have a rather catty and non-romantic edge to them at the start but there's no real fight or passion to win Maria to either side and when they do get together it's very much a whatever reaction. Hell the most confrontational they get is when the Phantom chokes Michael out like a bitch at a turkish bath and that's kinda it. Another aspect woefully cut short. Sounds like negatives all around huh? Well in all seriousness, I don't hate it. I accept it was just a TV movie made in the 80s, they took some liberties with the source material, and in a pre-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical world showed that people still remember the story. The best part period about the movie is Maximilian Schell himself, I heard his acting might have been a tad much but madame please Erik ain't exactly a down to earth subdued presence in the book so I'll live, I love the look and the mask, I dare say he has one of the best speaking voices for this character in any medium, I love we see him out and about beyond the opera house, and while he doesn't appear much the stuff he has is nothing but highlights for me. Jane Seymour is decent in acting and I don't hate how she takes a more firm spoken and career driven iteration of Christine, but in tandem with our two male leads there's just something missing that's needed for this particular story. Michael York, eh I've rarely seen a Raoul variant that I tremendously like and the attitude and upper classmanship for lack of a better word turns me off quick but no bad acting from him. I will admit the video I got ahold of for this was free on Youtube cause to own it on video you need to have a region free DVD player and even then it seems like not many copies are abound, so the quality was in classic 360p which lends quite well if you imagine you're watching it on a tube TV in 1983, but the direction is solid, the scenery in sets and locations are nice, also kinda amazing to see a Phantom lair look pretty damn close to the musical version 3 years before the stage musical came out so well done there, everything feels legit to the time period, you just gotta roll with the less than crystal clear picture quality but hey maybe there is a better and cleaner source to be found elsewhere. Who knows. Not bad, but there are better. I give it 2 stars, 6/10, and we jump all the way to 1990 tomorrow for another TV movie with a huge modern film star today. If you know your stuff you already know who it is.
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