Few stories have been adapted as often as PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Of course you have the famed stage production. Everyone knows the Lon Chaney vehicle from 1925 (of which my grandfather had a story about this movie, a trenchcoat, and a live chicken. But that’s a story for another Owl). You also have lesser known adaptations in 1943, 1989, 1990, 1991….And then you have the looser adaptations, including Dario Argento’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1998) (which I include here because, once you make the phantom “pretty” you’ve ceased to be a true adaptation), PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974), and even the loosest and my personal favorite KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978). Tonight’s Friday Movie doesn’t quite have the quality of KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM , but it’s a kind of classic in its own right.
PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’S REVENGE (1989) brings the original story into the hippest place in existence in the late 80s–the suburban mall. Our tale starts out with young high school lovers Eric and Melody have great futures ahead of them. Sure, Eric’s family is being harassed by developers who want to build a mall where his house stands, but that’s beside the point when young love is in the air. Their bliss is short lived, as Eric’s house is set on fire during a tryst. He’s able to save Melody but the fire overtakes Eric and he doesn’t make it out.
Cut to a year or so later and Mayor Morgan Fairchid is about to cut the ribbon on the new mall, developed by Jonathan Goldsmith (most commonly known as The Most Interesting Man in the World). Melody and her friends (including the one and only Pauly Shore) got jobs at the mall. All is well…sort of. Anyone who gives Melody or her friends a hard time is offed by a shadowy figure. You got it–Eric is alive and…well, not well. His face is half burned off and he’s been living in the hallways and crawl spaces of the mall, which hasn’t been good to his mental health. Sure, he’s protecting Melody, but at what cost?
The actors do what they can with what they have to work with. That’s not saying much. Plot holes abound. The characters are so underdeveloped they aren’t even two dimensional. Then there’s the questions, like “How did a guy get cobras if he never left the mall?” If you take more than a minute to stop and think, you’ll realize how horrible everything about the movie is. But if you check our brain out at the door you can enjoy a good hour and a half of 80s nostalgia, between familiar faces of the era’s entertainment, smiling at seeing the old stores filling the spots in the mall, to the glorious 80s fashion. It may not be great. It may not even be good. But it’s fun.
Question of the night: what’s the worst adaptation you’ve ever seen?