Posted March 21 2011 - 04:57 PM
Actually, the history behind the color sequence in "Phantom" is a story in itself. "The Phantom of the Opera" exists in so many states, it's hard to say which if any was definitive. The first version was pulled after a poor preview and heavily reshot. A second version was shown, and again bombed. More editing and retakes. The third version went into general release, and was a big hit. There were many color sequences shot for the film, and contemporary reviews cited the faust sequences, the ballet, the hall scenes as in colour, as well as the Bal Masque. Some were cut or only shown as black-and-white, depending on which version was shown. Add to it speculation that both Technicolor and the cheaper Prizmacolor processes were used, and in the end it has become unclear just HOW MUCH color remained in the third version which saw wide release.
We still don't know because that version is essentially lost, a victim to Universal's horrid treatment of its heritage, which saw the junking of virtually its entire silent library in the 30s and 40s. What is dubbed the "'25 version" in various home video and DVD releases is hardly that, deriving from contemporary "Show at Home" 16mm reduction prints made for consumers. These prints, however, are corrupt, comprising different takes, angles, and shots depending on the print you have, and each missing certain scenes so that in the end no two are alike, and what we have today is simply a best guess effort to cull together all the different versions into something approaching a comprehensive cut.
Then in 1929, during the talkie boom, "Phantom" was revisited and "sonorized" with several sequences reshot with the same actors now speaking their lines, along with sound effects, and a voice double for Lon Chaney, who did not participate. The intertitles were done away with, and whole characters were rewritten (the same actress who plays a singer in the '25 was rewritten to play her MOTHER (!) in the '29). Very confusing!! Like the '25, this version of the film is lost, except for the Vitaphone discs (the film was poorly reviewed on re-release, and if you listen to the discs, you'll discover WHY).
Which brings us to the best surviving print of the film, and the most well known: the Eastman house print from circa 1930. This print is the source of HUGE debate and controversy. It has a mix of both silent speed (i.e. hand cranked) footage from the '25 version, as well as 24 FPS sync footage from the '29, yet it does not not sync with the surviving vitaphone discs or contain any of the talking sequences. It has silent intertitles, yet it bears the editorial changes consistent with the sonorized version. The intertitles are in English, yet the whole film is comprised of alternate and second best takes (in one, a stagehand can be seen walking in front of a light), suggesting it is not from the A-negative which would have been reserved for domestic distribution, but a B-negative typically reserved for foreign audiences. The three theories as to this print are:
1) It was a version made for domestic theatres not yet equipped for sound
2) It was a version made for international theatres which were also largely unequipped for sound
3) It was some kind of reference print made for internal use and not distribution.
And so we arrive at the lone surviving color sequence. This sequence is NOT in the Eastman house print, and survived as a fragment discovered in the 70s. It is also NOT from the 25 version, since it is not a bipack of two strips, which is how an original '25 print would have been made. Rather it was made using Technicolor's more sophisticated dye transfer method (process 3). It is therefore most likely a surviving fragment from the otherwise lost '29 sound version, by which time Technicolor had adopted process 3, and would have used it in the creation of new prints from the negative material it possessed. Contemporary reviews prove there was color in the 29 version (recall, 29-30 was also the first, brief color boom...one that faded due to the expense of the process, and the flaws of two color photography), so this is certainly the case.
So to (finally) answer your comment, the reason why the color is clearer, sharper and more vibrant than might be expected with a process 2 bipack print is because it derives from the more sophisticated and exacting dye transfer process 3, using dyes which were less prone to fade than the earlier, cruder process 2.