The late 30's were such a turbulent time for the world. Thus not many films were getting made. China was involved with skirmishes with it's aggressive neighbor on the seas, Japan. During war, Weibang Ma-Xu still found time to create a western-influenced remake to the Phantom of the Opera. Although, clearly this is influenced by the Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera that came from the US. However, it still carries traditional Chinese themes in its musical styles and artistic approach.
The effects are minimal but great for its time. It's a shame this movie didn't get a full western release. The cinematography is really clean and well done. The sets are creepy enough and the costumes are a definite highpoint. This movie doesn't disappoint. It is influenced by the western version of Phantom but takes its own liberties and that doesn't bother me.
The movie showcases the origin of the "Phantom" character. It shows his face being mangled by acid and the horrific effect it took on his skin. The makeup on the character, Song Danping, is actually grotesque. It's worth watching just for the scene when he sees himself in a mirror for the first time. Mimicking the famous "reveal scene" in the original Phantom of the Opera from 1925. The showdown at the end of the movie is good too.
All in all the movie is decent. It runs really long, but it's full of character. This is definitely a forgotten gem from the early days of film. A quick Google search finds that almost every horror movie database on the Internet doesn't even list 1937 as having a horror movie. This needs to be rectified. This movie is plenty frightening and qualifies for a solid entry. It is definitely a top contender for the top 20 horror movies from the 1930's.
I LOOK LIKE A WILD ANIMAL!
This movie has been remade several times and actually has a sequel, Song at Midnight 2 (1941)
The movie was given high honors in China in 1999 and 2005. It is listed in the top 100 Chinese films.
夜半歌声 was screened at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival.