Monday, February 23, 2015

Phantom Of The Oscars

Somewhere along the way, the Oscars lost me. I'm not just talking about last night, I mean years ago. I don't know when it happened but while I used to look forward to the Academy Awards each year, now I can't be bothered with them and it's been that way for so long I can't even remember the last time I watched the Oscars out of any personal interest. This year, as with the last few years, my job at a TV station put me in front of the Oscars, rolling local commercial spots, but when my shift ended, my time with the Oscars was over and I didn't care to turn on the end of the broadcast once I got home.

Instead, I put on Scream Factory's new Blu-Ray Special Edition of 1989's Phantom of the Opera - because as far as I'm concerned, no Oscar winning film (well, no Oscar winner in 2015, at least) can hold a candle to a Robert Englund-starring Phantom. Sorry, Birdman!

With today's independent horror scene comprised largely of micro-budget found footage pics, it's almost a shock to be reminded of how lavish Phantom is, with its handsomely rendered period setting. Even great indie horror films today don't have the resources to look this rich anymore. If we ever see anything extravagant, it has to be a big budget enterprise, like Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Crimson Peak.

Watching Phantom also makes me miss the days when Robert Englund was a regular presence on the big screen. As much as I love him as Freddy, I love his turn as the Phantom even more. It's a shame this didn't become a new franchise for him as I believe the '90s would have been dramatically improved had Englund and director Dwight H. Little been able to re-team for even just one more Phantom film.

It's clear that Englund relished the role and the opportunity that it provided and I love how, in every scene, he tears into it. Rather than pulling out his tried and true Freddy mannerisms, with his role in Phantom he was able to indulge in grander melodramatics, play a more romantic side, and - for lack of a better word - be more operatic. He's hammy and over the top but in all the right ways.

Englund knows exactly what he's doing and everything about his performance is done with the knowledge that this character inhabits a heightened, unnatural world so whether he's simply entering a room or blowing out a candle, there's always an extra flourish to it.

While it's a safe bet to say that Robert Englund will never be called onto the Oscar stage and it's an unfortunate fact that a film like Little's Phantom will never garner any industry accolades, history shows us that even minor genre works tend to endure far past the point where films that were more celebrated and honored in their day have faded from popular memory. Awards are fine but on the grand scales of time, for a film to be remembered and appreciated many years after its release is something that out weighs Oscar gold.


Timmy Crabcakes said...

I stopped watching or caring about the Oscars decades ago when I moved out of my parents' house... where Oscar night had been a family event.
However, for the past couple years I've attended an Oscar party at my friends' house and as a result I've tried to watch every BP nominated film before the event.
It's been a bit of a torture... there's a certain sort of movie that gets nominated and nothing else. The awards show itself is painful to watch.
This year, the day of the show I happened to watch The Taking of Deborah Logan and was annoyed to think that Jill Larson's great performance in that was so far outside of any Oscar consideration, despite being beyond anything I saw in the nominated movies.

I'll sadly admit I've never seen the Englund version of Phantom though... which I will attempt rectify immediately.

Jeff Allard said...

It's a fun version of it. I wouldn't call it a classic but it's a robust retelling, for sure, and Englund really puts it all out there.

Timmy Crabcakes said...

Just letting you know I watched it and enjoyed it.
Englund does do a fine job and never reminded me of Freddy... though his makeup did somewhat. I liked the 'patchwork face' a lot but the 'Touched By A Demon face' was a bit ho-hum given the weirdness its genesis could have allowed.
Thanks for pointing me to it!

Jeff Allard said...

My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed it!