Hopeful Broadway songbird Christine happens across a century-old piece of music and is zipped back in time to London in 1881 where the composer, Eric, mysteriously coaches her to success. Unbeknown to Christine, he has made a pact with the devil to popularize his work, which leaves his face horribly mutilated, concealing his true identity.
This 80s version of Phantom rehashes bits from the 1925 Lon Chaney, 1943 Claude Rains and 1963 Herbert Lorn movies in a vehicle for Nightmare on Elm Street's Robert Englund. It does, however, have better music in Gounod's Faust than the Andrew Lloyd Webber version.
It opens with a soprano (Schoelen) sent back to an earlier incarnation in Victorian London. She is being coached for her big break by a mysterious "angel" who dwells behind her dressing room mirror. He is, in fact, the Phantom, a cloaked and masked type who hangs out in the sewers under the theatre and is rumoured to have sold his soul to the Devil for musical genius. The Phantom skins his victims and sews bits of their faces onto his own to cover the not-terribly-horrifying scars inflicted by a Satanic dwarf in a silly flashback.
After sundry murders and arias, the Phantom kidnaps the girl and takes her to his lair, pursued by the hero and the police. "There must be hundreds of miles of tunnel down here," exclaims one bobby as they go through the same mile of sewer for the hundredth time. We get several climaxes, none very worthwhile, and a set-up for the sequel, The Phantom Of New York, which was never actually shot.
Dwight Little laces the Victorian huffing and puffing with Elm Street wisecracks and lovingly applied ketchup. As for the two good scenes traditionally to be found in Phantom movies, Little has several ineffective unmasking and omits the chandelier altogether. Shame.
All the usual Phantom thrills and spills with blood and gore thrown in, and a memorable score.