Long before it became a Broadway hit and movie musical, The Phantom of the Opera was an effective silent film made in 1925 starring Lon Chaney. Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, Phantom was the tale of a deformed man named Erik who lives below the Paris Opera House and his obsession with a young chorus girl named Christine .
What makes the original film so astounding is the look of Chaney as The Phantom. It is said that Chaney (known as the man of a thousand faces) did all of his own make up including using chemicals to dilate his pupils, piano wire to deform his nose, cotton and celluloid discs to change the looks of his cheekbones, and home-made dental implants to create the horrid fanged smile he flashes through out the film.
My favorite scene in Phantom is the moment when Christine (played by Mary Philibin) unmasks Erik while he plays the organ in his lair deep beneath the opera house. We watch as Christine, enchanted by the music she hears at first, is drawn to the man playing the organ, and then we see her hesitatingly go for the back of his mask; she stops herself and then finally gets up the gumption to do the deed.
At first only the audience sees Erik's horrific countenance, and then he turns and faces his beloved and when she sees him she screams in horror.
If you have not seen this masterpiece of silent film making, you really owe it to yourself; it's a great movie.