Julian Sands and Il Fantasma dell’ Opera

Like every other sentimental mooncalf who watched too many Merchant Ivory flicks as a young girl, I continue to allow the actor Julian Sands to occupy a very special place in my heart, despite everything. Never mind Warlock. Or Harem. Forget Boxing Helena and Biker Mice From Mars. Put these sundries from your minds, my dears. Recall only A Room With A View, and Sands’ convincingly heterosexual ravishing of Helena Bonham Carter in a field of poppies.* It remains, to this day, one of my top picks for Most Romantic Moment in Cinema (seconded only by this tender scene from Myra Breckenridge).

I also happen to be a HYOOOGE fan of the Italian horror director, Dario Argento, so when I heard that he and Sands worked together ten years ago on an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, I was quite curious! Why had I never heard about this movie before? Why?! I promptly Netflixed it.

“I gotta be MEEEEEEE.” Julian Sands in Il Fantasma.

Why, oh, why, indeed. Yes, Sands and Argento work seamlessly together… in a So-Bad-it’s-a-Festering-Masterpiece kind of way, their combined efforts cradling the budding psychosexual genius of Asia Argento like two slices of moldy sourdough bread wrapped around a generous dollop of indeterminate ooze in a rat salad sandwich.

The movie is quite long, and something tells me few of you will appreciate the full length version as much as I did. Luckily, Genevieve, a brilliant columnist over at Defenestration Magazine, has provided us with this MST3K-worthy “abridged version”. I laughed, I cried, it was better than… that other Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. Enjoy:

Parts II and III under the cut.

*Sands’ portrayal of Franz Liszt in Impromptu was delicious as well. Hell, I have no shame… I’d still buy Gothic for a dollar.

20 Responses to “Julian Sands and Il Fantasma dell’ Opera”

  1. Terra Trouvé Says:

    Brilliant. That’s hilarious.
    And i reckon it would serve as quite a good primer for the actual film. Only one way to find out…
    “Hello, LoveFilm? I believe you have something for me.”

    And then, just for fun, a little 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.(Sands to Bacon)
    Julian Sands was in Arachnophobia with Jeff Daniels who was in The Hours with Meryl Streep who was in The River Wild with Kevin Bacon.
    Good times.

  2. Mary MacGregor-Reid Says:

    Oh god, that was pure comedy genius! Don’t think I need to watch the whole movie though.
    How does Julian Sands manage to remain in our hearts even though he plays so many shocking roles? Maybe it’s the horror of his acting that makes him so brilliant?
    And yes, I agree with Genevieve – how can someone cast their DAUGHTER in that role??

  3. Mer Says:

    *high fives Terra for bringing home the bacon*

    How does Julian Sands manage to remain in our hearts even though he plays so many shocking roles? Maybe it’s the horror of his acting that makes him so brilliant?

    Maybe there’s something to that! Oh… as someone pointed out over on the LJ feed, we must not forget his scintillating role on Stargate…

    And yes, I agree with Genevieve – how can someone cast their DAUGHTER in that role??

    Admittedly, this is part of why I love the dirty old bird. He’s just unabashedly perverse. But yeah, WTF, MATE?!

  4. Tequila Says:

    I remember when this came out…oh man…I still love Julian from Warlock though and the rarely screened David Lynch wannabe film Siesta (a film I’ve seen at least a dozen times and still have no clue what it’s actually about…)

    But this…THIS film will have him remembered for the ages.

    I remember a debate in a cinema class I took as to the nature of Argento’s relationship with his Daughter…all sorts of great theories came from it but my favorite was a cynical yet brilliant one involving the differences of Northern and Southern Italy, Italian screen goddess, and marketing.

  5. Skerror Says:

    Julian Sands is the perfect Argento actor. If Sean Penn had played the phantom, the acting would have been too good and the audience would just watch his face and all its complex emoting. When Julian Sands is on screen…I feel free to check out the set design and bitchin’ camera work ;)

    I kinda think Dario puts Asia in there just so the audience will ask that question: “How can someone cast their DAUGHTER in that role??” — Like an added layer of fuzzy green mayonnaise to the rat salad sandwich…

    Yum yum!

  6. Nadya Says:


    Ahahah! So many great moments.

    Somehow Julian Sands’ look here reminded me of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Gormenghast (it was probably The Wig!), and interestingly enough Asia Argento did indeed date Rhys-Meyers, who, by the way, appeared in Telling Lies in America with Kevin Bacon. Boooya!

  7. Jon Munger Says:

    Ah, Dario. He’s the one director I feel obliged to love, no matter how many times he hits me and locks me in the basement filled with contrasting lights.
    I have to say I missed out on the Sandsophilia. I was always a Jeffery Combs man myself.

  8. Vespers Says:

    I HAVE to watch this entire movie. It is now on the list. Quite possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

    And it wasn’t kidding about the rat sex either.

  9. Peter S. Says:

    I will never get back the time I spent watching Boxing Helena, and that will always fester in my heart. His performance in Vibes, however…

    Perfect caption. Good thing I wasn’t drinking when I read it.

    As for Bacon…Sands was in Oceans 13 with Brad Pitt, who was in Sleepers with Bacon.

  10. Ashbet Says:

    This movie is the one that inadvertently caused this hilarious misadventure (actually, the post regarding the “Uncanny Valley” above my comment is well worth reading) . . . when I mistook “Opera” for this movie. OMG.

  11. Mer Says:

    Ashbet, that’s AWESOME.

    You know, when you’ve got a glass eye, it should be a requirement that you use it to freak people out. I had a friend in college with one; he was a brilliant poet, thin as a rail, snappy dresser, always with a mixed drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, quite popular with the ladies. There was this legend about how he once got bored of listening to some ditzy sophomoric sophomore wax prosaic about her 101 gender studies class at a party, popped out the glass eye and calmly stirred it into his martini, nodding and smiling pleasantly all the while. I asked him once if the story was true, and he just grinned and said something like “I will neither confirm nor deny the allegation.”

  12. D Says:

    Oh. Why? His older film Opera was acceptable, but this? Sigh.

    I don’t mind at all that he casts his daughter for stuff like this. Not at all. Really, I don’t mind. At all.

  13. Merveilluse Says:

    “I don’t trust you…”
    “Trust me.”
    “I trust you.”


  14. Mark Says:

    @ Mer – I had a friend at school with a glass peeper. For a candy bar, he’d let you put your finger in the hole. For two candy bars, he’d close it when you did. Salad days.

  15. Vivacious G Says:

    Love Argento.

    I have to agree with Mer’s comment about freaking people out with a glass eye. (Or false teeth or hand or whatever you’ve got for that matter.)

  16. Choklit Chanteuse Says:

    OMFG, you made my day.

    I, too, swooned with adolescent ardor for Sands in Room with a View… the pond scene will always have a special place in my heart. And then his role in Naked Lunch gave me nightmares… but I remained faithful.

    That and my love of Argento may actually cause me to brave the full movie here – too bad Genevieve isn’t commenting the whole time…

  17. MissSpite Says:

    Once again, Julian Sands is so stunning he makes you want to sex him, despite badness and melodrama swirling around him. Sigh. Julian wouldn’t be half as good if he weren’t so damned terrible.

  18. Lucy Watkins Says:

    How can you not love this man!! (Sands I mean). He makes some of the strangest movies voices the weirdest things (Heidi Four Paws?) I don’t know if he’s really really good or bad as an actor, just can’t decide but I do know that watching him is a trip and always rewarding one way or another. I suspect he’s a really good actor but makes some unusual choices, not bad, just unusual.
    Those of us who are his fans, well we’re in a league of our own. Can’t wait to see what other wonderful wackey, awful thing he’s in.

  19. Holly Says:

    It seems to me–and I will readily admit that I am sexually obsessed with Julian–that it is not his beauty that drives us to desire him. In fact, it seems to me that it must be our own sickness that enables us to tolerate his, admittedly, terrible acting exacerbated by equally terrible scripts. In fact, it seems to me that the kinky roles he chooses reflect not only a darkness in him but in ourselves. There are many beautiful men in the world, yet I choose this man above all of the other pretty faces in sprite of the fact that he is unversally wooden. There are many fine films to watch as well, but I have readily chosen to watch a ludicrous film, tragically featuring “man/rat love” just to see him–wig or no wig. He is, to me, only a symptom of some disturbance in myself, a disturbance that I will continue to nurture in spite of my better instincts.

  20. Maggie Says:

    Shush you guys.. Boxing Helena was epic… I actually liked it better than Room with a View (boring chick flick!)
    Boxing Helena struck me as a unique movie that’s worth watching for the “hmm, haven’t seen this kind of thing before’ value, while RwaV is totally generic and boring, imo!
    He was definitely sexiest in Warlock 2, though! (Even watched the third part with that freakzoid Bruce Payne out of love of the franchise!)

    Can’t believe I used to be a hardcore Julian fangirl back in my mid teens xD (I still think he was absolutely gorgeous in Rose Red, though) But yeah, his acting is bottom basement material. Good thing he was hot enough to get casted regularly anyway. He is one actor that is really saved by his good looks, they do make up for his appalling lack of talent!
    I also wonder what happened to the Julian Sands yahoo groups.. I still remember taking to people from there and exchanging flicks over mail like it was yesterday! =D

    As for the ‘abridged version’ videos.. hilarity!! I remember watching the full movie and actually taking it seriously back in the day … xD I also didn’t think the wig was obvious back when I watched it.. xDD OH GOD I was blind!! Ah good times good times.