Fun Stuff - Page 2

The Phantom's Masks


The Phantom's unmasked appearance and mask shape have changed since Gaston Leroux wrote his novel. Leroux described a plain, black, full-faced mask for the man who, according to Joseph Buquet (who was a reliable individual in Leroux's novel, and not the ne'er-do-well from ALW's versions):

[I]s extraordinarily thin and his dress-coat hangs on a skeleton frame. His eyes are so deep that you can hardly see the fixed pupils. You just see two big black holes, as in a dead man's skull. His skin, which is stretched across his bones like a drumhead, is not white, but a nasty yellow. His nose is so little worth talking about that you can't see it side-face; and THE ABSENCE of that nose is a horrible thing TO LOOK AT. All the hair he has is three or four long dark locks on his forehead and behind his ears.

Christine said the following about the Phantom's appearance:

[A] stone-cold, bony thing [that] seized my wrist and did not let go...
But imagine, if you can, Red Death's mask suddenly coming to life in order to express, with the four black holes of its eyes, its nose, and its mouth, the extreme anger, the mighty fury of a demon; AND NOT A RAY OF LIGHT FROM THE SOCKETS, for, as I learned later, you can
not see his blazing eyes except in the dark.

Lon Chaney, who played the Phantom in the 1925 silent film and its 1929 sound remake, was a master of make-up; he was able to create a terrifying appearance. He looked like a "monster" -- not a man with scars, as have later Phantoms. Yet, even he did not resemble Leroux's description. In fact, to my knowledge, no stage production, television program, or film has ever shown the Phantom as Leroux described him; a yellow-skinned, skeletal creature without a nose, and no light coming from his eyes except in the dark, would have been difficult to portray without computer graphics.

Book covers do not have the same limitations. Here are a few book covers showing different masks:
 
The mask on the currently available electronic edition of Susan Kay's Phantom.  This novel provides back story for Leroux's tale, and, in my opinion, Ms  Kay's version surpasses Leroux's.  Phantom is still available in electronic versions, although print editions may be hard to find.
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Halcyon Classics' electronic edition of The Phantom of the Opera and Other Works by Gaston Leroux (January 14, 2010).
Gaston Leroux & Viron Polidoori, The Phantom of the Opera,   CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 29, 2014). I think that the rose in the eye socket looks terrifying.
The mask on the cover of an earlier edition of Susan Kay's Phantom.  This novel provides back story for Leroux's tale, and, in my opinion, Ms  Kay's version surpasses Leroux's. Phantom is still available in electronic versions, although print editions may be hard to find.
The mask on the cover of an earlier edition of Susan Kay's Phantom.  This novel provides back story for Leroux's tale, and, in my opinion, Ms  Kay's version surpasses Leroux's. Phantom is still available in electronic versions, although print editions may be hard to find.

Can you determine the stage or screen version of the story based on the following masks?
(Answers below)

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Mask #1

Mask #6

Mask #2

Mask #7

Mask #3

Mask #8

Mask #4

Mask #9

Mask #5

Mask #10

Before we get to the answers, here are a few more masks worn in various versions of the Phantom's story.

Maximilian Schell wore this mask as  Sandor Korvin, in the 1983 made for television movie, The Phantom of the Opera. Korvin is a Hungarian conductor whose wife (Jane Seymour) kills herself after a rigged bad review. His face is burned and he becomes the Phantom and falls for a young woman (Jane Seymour again) who resembles his late wife.
Jack Cassidy is The Phantom of Hollywood  in this 1974 made for television movie. The Phantom lives on the backlot of Worldwide Studios and does not want to see his home destroyed to make way for development. The movie was filmed during the actual destruction of the MGM backlot.
This helmet is a model sold on E-bay of the one worn in the 1974 cult classic musical film, The Phantom of the Paradise, starring Paul Williams. He portrays an evil record producer who once wronged Winslow Leach (played by William Finley), who becomes the Phantom.
This mask is from the London production of Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. Ramin Karimloo played the Phantom and Sierra Boggess played Christine, roles that they reprised in the 2011 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera.
Ron Bohmer wore this mask as the Phantom in Yeston & Kopit's musical, Phantom. As explained in the obituary of Geoffrey Holder on this site, Mr. Holder planned a Broadway musical then titled The Phantom of the Opera, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and book by Arthur Kopit. Because the financing collapsed after ALW announced his own version, the Yeston & Kopit show, renamed Phantom, never got to Broadway. It premiered in Houston, Texas in 1991. Above, Ron Bohmer who has played the Phantom in both the Y&K show and the national tour of ALW's POTO, wears the Y&K mask.
Everyone recognizes this mask, which is still used in logos for Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical, even though the Phantom never wore it. Apparently, Michael Crawford concluded that a mask that covered so much of his face would curtail his ability to show emotion. He suggested adopting a mask that covered only one side of his face, and the now-familiar half-mask was born.
This mask reminds me of bloody tears. It is one of several that the Phantom wears in the Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit musical, Phantom. The world premiere production, in Houston, Texas, in 1991 featured Richard White and Glory Crampton, pictured above. Richard White has another Phantom connection: He voiced Gaston in Disney's brilliant 1991 musical animated film, Beauty and the Beast, which contains elements of the Phantom's story.
Herbert Lom wore this frightening mask as Professor Petrie (the Phantom) in the 1962 horror film, The Phantom of the Opera.
This is the current version of the Broadway half-mask, worn by James Barbour, in the ALW production of The Phantom of the Opera.
This mask -- the original one in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage blockbuster -- does not look as sinister as later versions adopted for the production. Tony award winner Michael Crawford models the mask.
The 2004 cinematic adaptation of the ALW musical for the first time portrayed the left side of the Phantom's face as not only undamaged but devastatingly handsome. Although the then-unknown Gerard Butler does not have the operatic voice of the stage Phantoms, his interpretation of the role is one of the best I've seen.
Lon Chaney's mask in the 1925 silent version of The Phantom of the Opera is itself terrifying, in my opinion. The painted face on the full mask to me looks much more threatening than the Phantom's unmasked face. However, the early audiences disagreed -- some patrons apparently fainted when they saw Chaney's makeup.
This is Claude Rains' mask in the 1943 motion picture Phantom of the Opera (there is no "the" at the beginning). As I discuss in the review on this site, the production is cinematically beautiful, but the story veers between comedy and horror.
There is a good reason that this mask looks so much like it comes from an ALW stage production: It is the mask that the Phantom wears in the Australian version of Love Never Dies, which is the version available on video. Ben Lewis and Anna O'Byrne (who went on to play the Christine alternate in London) are wonderful as the ten-years-older protagonists.
This mask can be seen in the new North American touring production of ALW's musical. Chris Mann is the Phantom.
This is Charles Dance's primary mask in the 1990 television miniseries version of The Phantom of the Opera, Arthur Kopit's non-musical adaptation of his own draft musical book. This version heavily emphasizes romance over horror, and the Phantom is portrayed sympathetically. Unlike most versions, Erik's parents love him despite his facial anomalies.

Answers to which version features the following masks.

In looking at the masks above, it is possible to get an idea of whether the version of The Phantom of the Opera in which each appears leans towards horror, romance, camp, or a combination. The Arthur Kopit and Yeston & Kopit versions have the least terrifying masks, except for the space monster Phantom of the Paradise helmet. The Kopit and Y&K versions are the most sympathetic ones that I have seen regarding their portrayal of Erik. Herbert Lom's and Lon Chaney's masks give me the creeps. Claude Rains's mask can't seem to decide whether it is scary or not -- just like the movie itself, which bounces among horror, pathos, and comedy. The original ALW logo mask does not strike me as scary at all. Neither does Michael Crawford's. However, later versions used in the ALW musicals telegraph that the Phantom is an angry man. The touring mask looks even more sinister to me, but that may only be because the Phantom is exceptionally violent in that production. I have left out a mask -- Robert Englund's --  that could easily cause nightmares. His versions of the story earned their R-ratings.