West End impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber talked director Joel Schumacher into a "frankly obnoxious" movie version of The Phantom Of The Opera. Gerard Butler stars as the disfigured musical genius obsessed with Emmy Rossum's opera-singing novice, but their combined charms couldn't save this from bombing at the box office. Still, newcomer Rossum emerged unscathed and even bagged a Golden Globe nomination for her efforts, because as this two-disc DVD proves, it takes a lot of hard graft to make a movie this tacky.
Something Of The Night...
"I killed myself making it!" says Butler at the film's London premiere, which kicks off an intriguing investigation into The Making Of The Phantom Of The Opera. In the course of 45 minutes, Webber and Schumacher are also on hand to guide you through a journey that began 15 years ago when Webber first pitched the idea to Schumacher as a vehicle for Michael Crawford and Webber's then wife-to-be Sarah Brightman. Soon afterwards, the project hit a wall "for Andrew's personal reasons", as Schumacher so tactfully puts it (ie Brightman and Webber split up).
Seven behind-the-scenes featurettes provide a nuts-and-bolts study in the creation of this huge baroque spectacle. You're even invited inside the Austrian HQ of crystal designers Swarovski who provided the chandelier which is promptly smashed to bits in another featurette on special effects. Two blokes and a mouse also show you how CG played a part in depicting the transitions from old to new, like the opening scene of the Paris Opera House that's presented as a living postcard.
Separate breakdowns of production design and costuming will have disciples of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen in frilly French rapture and there's a fly-on-the-wall look at orchestral sessions at Abbey Road studios. Of course what we really want to see are the actors suffering through a Hollywood version of Fame Academy, but there's none of that. Instead, a focus on editing provides the last piece of the moviemaking puzzle.
Beyond Face Value
In a second bonus menu, find out everything you need to know about the history of the stage musical. Behind The Mask is a feature-length documentary that attempts to unravel the enduing fascination with Gaston Leroux's original novel, which has inspired a silent movie (oh, the irony) and too many TV adaptations to mention. Webber also explains why he fell in love with the story after picking up a second-hand copy of the book for a mere 50 cents.
Elsewhere musicologist John Snelson deconstructs Webber's musical to reveal his classical influences and demonstrates how music is used to express characters and conflicts. Meanwhile Gerard Butler fans will surely appreciate a full rendition of the new song No One Would Listen, which didn't make it to the final cut. (It's hidden in the bottom right-hand corner of 'The Movie' menu on Disc Two.) While such a thoughtful and comprehensive selection of extras does a lot to recommend this DVD, this remains strictly for fans of the stage show.
The Phantom Of The Opera DVD is out to buy on Monday 2nd May 2005.