Mary Philbin

The Phantom of the Opera: BFI Dual Format Edition (1925/9) [Blu-ray]

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Given the economics of funding niche releases for cineastes, it’s rare to find a ‘classic’ film from the silent era receive more than one proper release. Movies in the public domain may well get multiple basic releases under different labels – usually all of them pretty awful – but once a film is properly restored or digitally remastered then that’s usually it as far as it goes for any given medium. The only exceptions I can think of to the rule offhand are FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger.

That’s why when I saw the 2011 Park Circus release of the 1929 Lon Chaney silent classic The Phantom of the Opera, I was so relieved to find it to be of such a high standard – “a treasure trove and a truly ‘ultimate edition’, a genuine early Christmas present for lovers of classic old films” as I put it in my original review of the Park Circus title here – which was just as well because I knew that this was as surely good as we were ever going to get on Blu-ray, as it wasn’t as if we could hope for anything better to come by in a couple of years. Except, strangely enough, that’s exactly what has happened with this week’s release of the same title by the British Film Institute as part of the BFI’s Gothic Season.

So what’s going on here? Is this just the same thing released under a different label, or something different? And if different, then which version is the better one to go for? Read the rest of this entry »