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    The Phantom Of The Opera (Me & My Monsters - part 2)



    One Saturday night, when I was about ten, my folks left my twin brother and I alone in the house to go get the pizzas they had ordered for dinner. It’s the first time I ever remember my folks leaving us alone at night. 

    They picked a doozy of a night to leave Mike and I alone. Because, on that night, for the first time in my limited lifespan, the original silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney, was airing on Channel 2, one of the two local Public Television stations in Boston.

    I was familiar with the story of The Hunchback, and had heard so much about the movie, but had never seen it. That was back during a period when even iconic cinema was not readily available. This may shock some of you younger readers, but if you wanted to see a movie that wasn't in the theatres, you had to wait until it aired on television. And you may have to wait for that for years. This was at a time when there were only a total of maybe eight stations you could get (three major networks, three UHF channels, and two public television stations. And even that lofty number was only available in major markets). This was the true age of PC: the archaic time of “Pre-Cable”. 

    The real gem of the evening, for me, however, was not even the movie. It was the highlight real of The Career of Lon Chaney, when they showed the unmasking scene of arguably his most famous movie, The Phantom of The Opera. 

    The face of The Phantom of The Opera is possibly the most frightening face in the history of moviedom. Incredible, when you consider that it was created in 1925, in black and white, during the silent film era. There was thus no spoken dialogue to augment the visual. Although, there was music. One could argue that such a limitation as no talking, and the only sound being music, actually made what you saw on the screen all the more impactful, all the more terrifying.

    And, even more amazing, The Face of The Phantom was created by the actor himself, using nothing but makeup, greasepaint, prosthetics, and very effective lighting. No post-production special effects. No CGI. No real technology to speak of. 

    The unmasking scene had nonetheless lived inside of me ever since my Aunty You-You told me about it. 

    The Face simultaneously scared the crap out of me and drew me towards it like a moth to a flame. I had only seen The Face in still images and artist’s impressions. I had never seen the the moving image.

    In the early 1970’s, you never knew when you would actually get to see an actual movie, or even a clip of it. That created a completely unknown time frame of anticipation of when, or even if, you would see it. That anticipation created a potential impact that doesn’t exist today, when virtually any image, be it moving or still, is virtually always at our disposal. 

    When I finally saw that scene of unmasking, it burned itself so far into me that it made it’s way into my sub-conscious. For years. I remember being scared to death, seeing The Face it in all it’s glory, not turning away, and being so riveted that I literally froze. 

    I had nightmares about That Face for years. It would wake me up screaming and crying, thankful that it was only a dream. 

    But was seeing that face worth it? Fuck yeah.

    We Monster Fans are A Rare Breed.


    © 2018 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

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