And Now … The Phantom!

Finished The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux. That takes care of three of the four major literary horror characters. The Phantom is probably at the bottom of the list in public awareness. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde would come before him. (And perhaps the Invisible Man would come after him. I tend to forget about the Invisible Man because it’s his invisibility that people remember not his character.) And of course, the public would know Erik as the mad, scarred composer of the films rather than the world traveling freakish genius of the novel. The Lon Chaney version seems most accurate. I’ll have to watch the movie sometime.

The novel is a weird, schizophrenic thing. It lurches between comedy and terror. Erik, the Phantom, is both sad and sympathetic, angry and murderous. It’s left up to reader whether he is responsible for any of the deaths in the novel. He probably is (if only because he built the death traps) but he may not have actively killed anyone while in Paris. The hero, Raoul, and heroine, Christine, are … eh … not terribly engaging. They’re melodramatic young lovers. I didn’t have much patience for that sort of character even when I was young and melodramatic. It’s Erik and the Persian who are most interesting. And the opera house itself. After reading the book I want to visit the place and run around the back corridors and seek out the hidden places.

After the Phantom, all the great horror characters were born in the movies. The Wolfman, the Mummy are both cinematic creations. Werewolves and Egyptian sorcerors appeared in novels prior to the films but, so far as I know, the films were original stories, not based on previous works. There have been great monsters in prose since but it’s film that dominates the public imagination. C’est la vie.