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(Review originally written at 20 June 2008)

This is artistically a well made and good looking movie but due to its different techniques and approach being used, that's different from the western way of film-making, this movie is also a hard one to watch in parts.

The first halve of the movie is mostly hard to follow. Basically all you see are people walking around and talking. It's often hard to fully understand what is going on and were the movie and its story is heading to. It however soon becomes obvious that this is a movie that is based on the well known Gaston Leroux novel; The Phantom of the Opera. But no, you can't really regard this movie as a Chinese version of The Phantom of the Opera. It's more a reinterpretation of the novel and it picks some different angles with its story.

This is a fairly unknown and rare early Chinese production and also very little about this film is actually known. It nevertheless is listed at many places as you movie you simply have to see and I can understand why, even though this movie is not completely a successful one really as a movie.

Time has not always been kind to this movie and some of the movie its quality has been lost. The quality and used techniques of this movie makes the movie seem older than it in fact really is. I'm not only talking about the types of camera's being used by also the editing, camera positioning and overall directing style. Also the music and sound often doesn't sound right and seems out of place and as if it got added in a much later stage. movie got made in the '30's, it looks more like it had been made 20 years before that. Asian movies in general often look older than they really are due to its techniques. It's for instance also the reason why most Akira Kurosawa movies look as if they were made in the '30's, while in fact they were made in the '50's. Of course this has changed, since the world now is much smaller.

The second halve of the movie is definitely the best when it mixes its (romantic) drama with horror elements. The movie and its story then soon starts to get truly powerful and the movie becomes an even bigger pleasure to watch.

It was already a pleasure to watch this movie due to its visual look, even though time hadn't been kind on the overall quality of the movie. It using fine, almost at times expressionistic looking sets, which probably had more to do with the budget restrictions of the movie. The movie is artistically more interesting to watch than movie-wise really.

It's acting is obviously over-the-top and also one of the reasons why this movie is more outdated looking and feeling than it's 1937 release date would suggest. The actors obviously weren't movie actors but who can blame them, since in the '30's China there of course really wasn't a movie industry. It also got made in the same year as the second Sino-Japanese war started between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan, though there already had been some fighting going on between those two, years before the actual war started, so no big surprise really that this movie got made with limited resources and both cast & crew involved obviously didn't had much experience yet in the movie business, though director Weibang Ma-Xu on a very regular basis, had been making movies since 1926 on and continued to do so till his early death in 1961.

It's an interesting movie to watch.

8/10

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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