In keeping with the his cult reputation, Italian filmmaker Dario Argento's take on Gaston Leroux's enduring Gothic tale of terror and obsession features plenty of sex and graphic, high-tech gore (although hard-core Argento purists may find the splatter scenes rather sparse). Unlike other renditions of the illustrious Phantom, Argento's version suffers no facial disfigurement and therefore remains unmasked. His creepiness, shown in the early parts of the story, comes from having been abandoned as a baby and raised by rats in the labyrinthine catacombs beneath the Paris Opera. Unaccustomed to humankind, the Phantom (Julian Sands) spends his days in the darkness playing an organ, murdering intruders, saving his rodent family members from the theater's exterminator and occasionally wandering about the opera house. His life changes when he falls in love with beautiful young singer Christine (Asia Argento), understudy to temperamental zaftig diva Carlotta (Nadia Rinaldi). Desperate to have her, the Phantom plays a haunting melody and lures her into the bowels of the great theater. There he will begin a macabre courtship destined to end in tragedy. Those who enjoy finding continuity mistakes will be delighted to discover that while the story is set in 1877, the theater is lighted with electricity, something that did not happen in real life until 1888.
No way near as good as Argento could be, a bitter disappointment to anyone who has ever seen any of this director's work.
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