2 July 2015 | TheLittleSongbird
Pretty good but not among Hammer's best
As far as adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera goes(excluding the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical), this 1962 Hammer version is not as good as Lon Chaney's, which is the best version, but it's superior to the Claude Rains version(though I do prefer Rains over Herbert Lom).
It does have its problems, with too much time spent on the opera and the romance and not enough of the Phantom, which does undermine the tension, sense of dread and horror. Sadly, the opera numbers, while musically good, are staged awkwardly and really do slow the film down. The romance is rather saccharine, and the chemistry between the two 'heroes' a little bland. Heather Sears also plays Christine too low-key and the script, while with some intelligent moments, does plod sometimes and has a little too much talk.
However, it is very lavishly made (one of the better looking early-60s Hammer films) with truly marvellous interiors of the opera house, rich vibrant colours and opulent costumes. It is beautifully and spine-chillingly scored, though James Bernard would have been an even better fit for composer. The story is less than perfect, but does offer some effective moments. The close up of the eye is really quite chilling and enough to make one jump, while the grasping hand over the stage and the lowering of the gas lamp are indeed very suspenseful, Phantom's back-story is interesting and makes one empathise with him and the ending is incredibly moving.
Terrence Fisher's direction is technically accomplished and does evoke some suspense and atmosphere, though his story-telling has been better elsewhere. Regarding the acting, Michael Gough steals the show being chillingly vile as a true slimeball with no redeeming qualities of a character. Herbert Lom is a great contrast as the Phantom, under heavy and effective make-up he is a sympathetic and tragic figure and it is quite a poignant performance, though not without a few scary moments. Edward De Souza is charming.
In conclusion, not among the best of Hammer by a long shot and could have been better, but still manages to be pretty good. 7/10 Bethany Cox