Universal’s Silent Film
From the very first one in 1924–25, as we have seen, the many adaptations of Leroux’s Fantôme have frequently obscured the novel’s most disturbing implications, its emphasis on modern simulation among them. At the same time, however, these elements can never be said to disappear completely. They are frequently transformed into displaced anamorphoses of them, sometimes in the very mode of adaptation. The initial transfer of the novel to film, a medium that fascinated Leroux himself to the point of his becoming a film-company investor and screenwriter as early as 1918 (Lamy, 69), shifts the book’s intimations of groundless phantasmal simulations from the words of Leroux’s narrator to the ghostly flickering images projected onto a screen. The work of fiction in what is already an age of technological reproductions of reproductions, in other words, continues to fulfill its always simulated foundations by being relocated from one phantom state to another, the second of which is even more obviously a series of shades referring to shades (as discussed in Michaels, 1–32). Simultaneously, though, this transfiguration can also be used to disguise the insubstantiality of perpetual simulation. By putting moving photographs of bodies and faces on multiple celluloid prints and screens, the filmmakers and author—can claim to be giving physical embodiment to written descriptions, somewhat as in live theater. What once seemed encrypted in words now “rises from the dead” to live and move quite substantially, it seems.
KeywordsSilent Picture Europe Mold Propa Liner
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