Town Hall Theater Screens THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA With Live Organ

Few films are as memorable and downright scary as the silent classic The Phantom of the Opera. When it was originally shown in 1925, however, it wasn't exactly silent. Many theaters were equipped with booming theaters organs that would match each the frightening action with spine-tingling music.

Middlebury's Town Hall Theater recreates that experience just in time for Halloween, installing a large theater organ (and top-flight organist) in the theater for a special showing of the film.

The film features Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, in the title role. The masked and facially deformed Phantom haunts the Paris Opera House, causing murder and mayhem in an attempt to force the management to make the woman he loves a star. It is most famous for Lon Chaney's intentionally horrific, self-applied make-up, which was kept a studio secret until the film's premiere.

Following the success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Chaney was once again given the freedom to create his own make-up as the Phantom, a habit which became almost as famous as the films he starred in. Chaney painted his eye sockets black, giving a skull-like impression to them. He also pulled the tip of his nose up and pinned that in place with wire, enlarging his nostrils with black paint, and putting a set of jagged false teeth into his mouth to complete the ghastly deformed look of the Phantom. Although nowhere near as elaborate as his make-up for Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it was no less painful, and no less effective either. When audiences first saw The Phantom of the Opera, they were said to have screamed or fainted at the scene where Christine pulls the concealing mask away, revealing his skull-like features to the audience (but not, for a few seconds, to Christine).

Musical accompaniment will be provided by master organist John Baratta of the New York Theater Organ Society, who tours the country with a massive Allen Theater Organ.

The evening begins with desserts, and costumes are encouraged. There will be a prize for Best Costume. Desserts will be served at 7 pm; the film begins at 8 pm. The entire evening costs only $10.

Tickets may be purchased at 802 382-9222,, in person at the THT box Office, or at the door.

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