The Phantom of the Opera is a 1990 NBC two-part drama television miniseries directed by Tony Richardson and stars Charles Dance in the title role. It is adapted from Arthur Kopit's book for his then-unproduced stage musical Phantom, which is based loosely on Gaston Leroux's novel.
The Phantom of the Opera (Charles Dance) is a disfigured musician named Erik who lives below the Opéra Garnier in Paris. He has a large part in managing each performance through his friend, Gerard Carriere (Burt Lancaster). The Phantom's life changes when Gerard is dismissed and the opera hires a new manager, Choleti. Choleti's wife Carlotta is a spoiled woman with a bad personality and a terrible voice to match; it is obvious that Choleti bought his way into the managership to further his wife's career. The Phantom takes an instant dislike to them both. Choleti and Carlotta refuse to listen to warnings about the "ghost" who haunts the opera house, even when Joseph Buquet, Carlotta's wardrobe man, goes down below and does not return (he is later found to have been killed). Christine Daaé (Teri Polo) comes to the Paris Opera House in search of voice lessons that Phillipe, the Comte de Chagny promised her, learning that she is not the only pretty face that Phillipe brought there. Carlotta initially dismisses her, but upon learning that Christine "has a patron who is powerful" states that Christine can work in the costume department in Buquet's place. Christine has no home or money, but Jean-Claude, the doorman, lets her stay in a storage room in the Opera House. That night, Christine wanders onto the stage and sings to the empty theater. The Phantom is immediately entranced by her voice. Hiding in the orchestra pit, he tells her that her voice is miraculous but untrained, and with proper technique her singing could reach its full potential. He offers to be her teacher, but must remain anonymous; that is why he wears a mask. They begin lessons, and the Phantom falls deeper in love with her. When she asks of his opinion on the Comte de Chagny, he replies "he is unworthy of you. He comes to the Opera for the wrong reasons ... he comes for the beauty of faces rather than the beauty of music."
In retaliation for Carlotta's singing the lead in every production, Erik begins a campaign of humiliation against her, sabotaging her performances and causing Carlotta to become a laughingstock in the eyes of the public. Phillipe comes to the opera house and finds out that Christine has been working in the costume department. He apologizes and invites her to the Bistro. With Erik's encouragement, Christine attends the Bistro and sings. Everyone is astonished by her voice and Choleti immediately signs her to a singing contract. After the Bistro, Phillipe and Christine start to bond. He realizes Christine was his childhood sweetheart from long ago. They already have the budding love from their earlier time together, and this only strengthens it. Erik witnesses them driving off together and stays up all night back in the rehearsal room, waiting for Christine. At the last moment she remembers Erik and hurry's back to the opera house. upon arriving she heartbreakingly finds him gone. Because of the Phantom's sabotage campaign, Carlotta says she will not sing until he is caught or killed. Finding out that Christine has been secretly living in the Opera, Carlotta confronts her and blackmails Christine into telling her about her vocal coach. When Carlotta informs her husband that Christine's teacher is the Phantom, Choleti gives Christine the female lead of the opera Faust; he is working with the police to capture the Phantom. Christine tells Erik about getting the lead role in Faust but lies about where she was after the Bistro. He agrees to help her prepare for her debut. But Christine regrets lying to him and apologizes revealing the truth of being with Phillipe (Not realizing that Erik already knew). She hugs Erik saying she didn't want to hurt him and that it's thanks to him she has the lead role.
Before curtain up, Carlotta tricks Christine to drink a beverage that temporarily weakens her voice. The audience starts booing, and Erik is enraged. He cuts through the ropes holding the chandelier and drops it on the audience. He takes Christine and leads her to his underground lair. He carries her in his arms, gently lays on a bed and sings her to sleep with a soft melody. Returning to the opera house, the Phantom discovers Carlotta was behind Christine's voice problems and dumps a big box of rats on her, driving her insane. As
Christine sleeps, Erik builds traps for anyone who comes down below. Gerard comes down and pleads with him to let Christine go, but Erik refuses. He insists that the world above is not fit for her and he believes that in time she will love him. He also shows Gerard the explosive materials that he has devised, and warns him that he will blow up the entire opera house if they step over the line and try to come down there. Gerard goes to Christine and urges her to get out as soon as possible. He tells her the story of Erik's past, that he is really Erik's father. Erik's mother, was a great singer named Belladova to whom she bears an eerie resemblance. Belladova gave birth to him below the opera house, and Erik has lived there his entire life. Christine however refuses to leave without talking to Erik first. The following morning, Erik takes Christine on a leisurely tour of his underground home. During a picnic, she asks Erik to show her his face. Erik at first refuses, but she promises him that she would be able to look at him with love and acceptance, just as his mother once did. However, when he does unmask himself, she faints. Erik becomes enraged by this and breaks everything he touches. When Christine awakens she tries to escape but Erik locks her in a cage. He tells her that she can't leave now because she has seen his face. Christine manages to escape the cage and return above. Gerard and Phillipe take her far from the Opera House. Christine is still stricken with guilt for fleeing from Erik. Phillipe is jealous, believing that Christine is in love with the Phantom. That night Christine has a nightmare that Erik is dying because of her actions. She begs Phillipe to take her back which he reluctantly agrees. He and Christine approach the manager about singing that night. Choleti secretly arranges to have police planted throughout the opera house for the performance.
Gerard has gone below and found Erik among the remains of his lair. Gerard talks to Erik about Christine, and lets him know that she did not mean to hurt him. Resigned, Erik says simply, "She was unprepared for ugliness." The conversation turns to Erik's mother and, eventually, his face. The older man reveals that he has already seen Erik's face, because he is his father. Erik says he knew all along. He tells Gerard that when he dies, he wants to be buried deep so he cannot be put on display. Gerard promises before leaving Erik, though he is loath to do so. Christine sings at that night's performance of Faust, Erik hears her and forces himself up to Box Five. He begins singing with her and the audience's attention turns toward him in shock. Christine and
the Phantom sing to each other with such passion that the audience give them a standing ovation. The police shoot at Erik and he jumps on stage, grabbing hold of Christine. He carries her to the roof, Phillipe pursues them, but in the ensuing struggle is knocked off the roof and dangles over the edge. Erik begins breaking the Phillipe's grip, but at Christine's pleading pulls him to safety. Erik finds that he is cornered, with police determined to take him alive. Gerard has gone to his old offices and retrieved a gun. Upholding his promise, Gerard shoots his son. Erik falls from the roof and Gerard cradles him on his lap. Christine runs to his side weeping and despite Erik's plea she removes Erik's mask. She looks him straight in the face, smiles and kisses him. Christine replaces Erik's mask and dies peacefully with his father and Christine at his side. She gets to her feet and is led away by Phillipe.
- Charles Dance - Erik, The Phantom of the Opera
- Teri Polo - Christine Daaé
- Adam Storke - Comte Philippe de Chagny
- Burt Lancaster - Gerard Carriere
- Andrea Ferreol - Carlotta Choleti
- Ian Richardson - Alain Choleti
- Jean-Pierre Cassel - Inspector Ledoux
- Jean Rougerie - Jean-Claude
- Jean Dupouy - Alfredo ('Faust')
- Jacques Mars - Oroyeso ('Mephisto')
- Andrea Chaumeau - Joseph Buquet
- Marie-Therese Orain - Madame Giry
Differences from other adaptations
- The Phantom in this adaptation is kinder and gentler than in the book and other adaptations, in which he is usually portrayed as evil and malicious.
- In this version, Christine looked a lot like the Phantom's mother, who died after giving him life and who loved him. In all other versions of the story, the Phantom's mother loathes him.
- The miniseries is based on the stage play, "Phantom: The American Musical Sensation", by Arthur L. Kopit.
- It is the only Phantom of the Opera movie to actually be filmed on location in Paris.
- The manager in this version is named Cholet. In other versions, there are two managers: Moncharmin and Richard or Andre and Firmin.
- In this version, Carlotta is Cholet's wife, but still the jealous, self-centered diva as she is in other versions.
- Raoul is not featured in this adaptation, and instead his brother Count Philippe is Christine's love interest.
- Like many other adaptations, the character of the Persian has been excluded, this time using the character Inspector Ledoux.
- In this version, the Phantom has not traveled all over the world, nor did he help build the Opera House. Rather, the Opera House was already built when he was born, and he lived under and in the vicinity of the Opera House all of his life.
- This is the first film in which the Phantom's face is never seen without his mask.
Arthur Kopit had long been an admirer of Gaston Leroux's story, but felt that the horror premise had left out the possibility of a more compelling relationship between the two main characters. So he came up with a script in which the Phantom is a romantic hero, frightening only to those who would misuse the opera house wherein he dwells - and to those who would stand in the way of Christine's eventual rise to stardom. And he decided to use plenty of music in his storytelling - not original music, but classical opera arias that would imbue his production with a sense of the Phantom's heart, soul and passion. Then Andrew Lloyd Webber came along, and Kopit was devastated: "Here was work that I deeply loved, and it looked for all that world like it would never be seen."
He later heard that the network was in the market for a miniseries, so he sent them a copy of his script. "I had to convince them that I wasn't following on the heels of Lloyd Webber's success," he said. "But once I was able to do that, it wasn't difficult to help them see the potential of this interesting, unusual love story."
The miniseries won two Emmy Awards out of five nominations in 1990 for Outstanding Art Direction and Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Special. It was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards in 1991 for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television and Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Burt Lancaster).
Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker gave the film a score of A- and said Arthur Kopit and director Tony Richardson "make the romance between the Phantom and Christine both touching and frightening, and the casting of Burt Lancaster as Carriere, the manager of the opera company, gives the story weight and great charm...The Phantom of the Opera has a few old-fashioned but genuinely scary moments...It's as if Richardson went back to look at old horror movies by such filmmakers as Val Lewton and James Whale to figure out how they got their spooky but never gruesome effects; if so, he learned well. The production is marred by Adam Storke's bland Count de Chagny; it's impossible to believe that Christine would prefer this petulant pretty-boy over Dance's funky-faced Phantom. But all in all, The Phantom of the Opera is a real achievement: It's rare enough for a costume drama to show up on TV these days; the fact that this is a good one is amazing." People critic David Hiltbrand gave the film a score of B+ and said "Director Tony Richardson has mounted a sumptuous, stately version of this oft-told epic melodrama, far surpassing the previous TV version with Maximilian Schell and Jane Seymour in 1983. But Lon Chaney must be spinning in his grave, seeing what a rakish romantic his ghoulish Phantom has become over the years." Hiltbrand praised that Burt Lancaster "lends his usual air of refined dignity, and Charles Dance makes an elegant Phantom. But the real zest is provided by Ian Richardson and Andrea Ferreol, who bring great comic verve to the roles of the pompous popinjay of an opera director and his deluded diva of a wife." The Deseret News critic Joseph Walker said, "Kopit's script maintains his vision throughout, expertly mixing moods ranging from the ridiculous ("I'm not used to killing people," says the Phantom after a rare violent episode. "It throws me off.") to the sublime. And the production values throughout are first rate..." Walker also added that Charles Dance is a "superb Phantom – brooding and mysterious, and yet somehow approachable. Polo makes the most of her big TV break, creating a flesh and blood heroine who is utterly believable...The rest of the cast is similarly effective, especially Ferreol who practically steals the show with her broad comic Carlotta. TV Guide gave the film four out of five stars and said Charles Dance is an "excellent Phantom" and "excellent support from Richardson and Lancaster." The New York Times critic John J. O'Connor was puzzled how the recluse Phantom became "cultivated and talented" and criticized Adam Storke's performance and the "international menu of accents." However, he stated "the physical production is gloriously lavish...And the director Tony Richardson deftly captures the fairy-tale aspects of the story," describing the film as a "variation on Beauty and the Beast, with echoes of Cinderella and enchanted forests." He also stated that "most of the performances transcend the accent difficulties. Mr. Dance is elegant, Mr. Lancaster dignified and Miss Polo, not yet 20 years old, strikingly beautiful. The show is just about stolen, however, by Ian Richardson and Andrea Ferreo...," and concluded "Phantom adds up to an odd but fascinating prime-time diversion."