James Rolfe: Welcome to my little history of horror films, Cinemassacre's "Monster Madness". As we've seen, the German horror films from the 1920s were usually based on the supernatural, but the American horror films were mostly about human deformities and often taken from literature – especially the ones from Universal Studios like "The Phantom of the Opera".
What made this film so great? Well, it had a good color sequence, but what really made it great – two words; Lon Chaney. Aside from being one of the greatest actors of the silent era, he also did his own makeup. Look at that face. The characters Chaney portrayed earned him the nickname "Man of a thousand faces". His portrayal of the Phantom is the best ever in my opinion, because he does so without spoken dialogue, so it's completely a visual performance. He was an actor truly made for the silent era. After all, his parents were deaf and he mastered the art of communication through body language. Now, that's scary. Look at that maniacal laugh.
At first, he seems just like a vengeful monster, but as the film progresses you begin to feel he's just a confused and sad misfit who doesn't know what to do with himself. Underneath that hideous makeup you can read his facial expressions and sympathize with his character – you can feel his jealousy and rage. Damn, he's pissed!
Lon Chaney is also well known for playing Quasimodo in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". In this film he demonstrated some great acrobatic skills. Also, he played a vampire in "London After Midnight". No known copy of this film has survived and today it's the Holy Grail of horror classics.
With the dawn of the sound era, Chaney was asked to play Dracula in Universal Studio's remake, but he died of throat cancer in 1930 – ironic that he passed away with the silent cinema. But what would come in his place was one of the most iconic horror stories of all time, in the first sound horror movie and we'll talk about that next time.