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Phantom (1922) * Worst Hit *

A whisp of entertainment
A whisp of entertainment

Genre: Drama Romance (Germany)

Starring: Alfred Abel (The Burning Soil), Grete Berger (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler)

Directed By: F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu: Symphony of Terror • Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans)

Overview: A beaurocrat and aspiring poet named Lorenz is one day struck by the horse of a beautiful young lady from a rich family named Veronika. Lorenz quickly begins to obsess over her. When he sees a woman who looks identical to her, he courts Veronika's 'phantom' instead, and risks all to much to have it.

As an avid fan of F.W. Murnau, I've long had a love of his works, and for a long time, I've had a page just for him as part of my Names of Notes section of the site. Sadly, Murnau's works are all too frequently impossible to find. Phantom is one such rare film.  A fan by the name of James Carlson showed me how to find it, and wouldn't you know it, it's even been restored and with a new score composed by Robert Israel, a name I've come to recognize from much-enjoyed restored Silents like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. So far so good.

Yet! I hated the Hell out of Phantom. It bored me to tears and reeked of the worst early Silent Film has to offer. A script that would have truly benefited from dialogue, and hammed out actors playing characters that seemed all too one-dimensional, all topped off with a woman so fantastical to our 'everyman' that he would go to the ends of the earth to have her, apparently because he has a fetish for hideous dog-faced freaks.

Talk about shattered dreams... but let's get critical for a moment.

Our main character, Lorenz attempts to be an embodiment of the everyman, but, he's no everyman I've ever met. We've all done stupid things to get in someone's pants, but Lorenz goes three steps further:

1.) Abandons his work post without warning for several days to the point of losing his job.

2.) When realizing how far out of the woman's league he is, he settles for her far-more-a-commoner look-alike - ergo: Phantom

3.) Since he's broke he borrows thousands of dollars he could never hope to repay in order to woo his little pig-faced look-alike by taking her shopping, you know, so she'll fall for him.

Phantom is the kind of movie that you, my reader, probably will never see, and that I, if lucky, will never hear about again. Phantom is the kind of two-hour snore-fest that needed 'out of film-induced coma' breaks to regain a semblance of sanity. It's the kind of movie that took an hour and a half to pick up, did 27 seconds worth of awesome then ended saccharine-sweet-kisses stupid. Before I began this rant, I had the full intention of going into those 27 seconds, those moments of Expressionist film that allow us to bask in artistic film-making, but then I remembered: Nosferatu, The Last Laugh - these movies are filled with imagery, and to hint for a second that Phantom has any place in your life experience, well that would be my curse unto you, because no way are you ever missing anything. Period.

What's more, I'm pissing myself off wasting time writing about it. So yeah, let's make Phantom disappear.

5 of the 27 seconds of awesome Phantom has to offer
5 of the 27 seconds of awesome that Phantom has to offer

Performance: 5 Cinematography: 7 Script: 4 Plot: 6 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 56% (Only Half There)

The thing I liked best about Phantom was coming across a blogger who gave Phantom the full treatment. Jim certainly has patience that is far more resilient than mine and for it I commend him. Here's his in-depth review, which includes a detailed synopsis, as well as passages from the book to add motivation and context behind characters I found less than three-dimensional, including one character who, in the film was merely a scoundrel and a thief, but who in the novel was actually an anarchist bent on stealing from the rich on principle, which made for a genuinely interesting character. Jim goes into the cinematographic details so deeply that it's obvious he's made several viewings of a film he finds truly majestic. Cast and crew as well as artistic influences and background on Murnau makes this a very informed and educational read that discusses more than merely the film. Hats off to you Jim! You singlehandedly doubled the enjoyment I had with this movie.

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I'd still like to see this, mainly for curiousity about anything Murnau did.

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