An offbeat, episodic film about three friends, Paul, a shy love-seeker, Lloyd, a vibrant conspiracy nut, and Jon, an aspiring filmmaker and peeping tom. The film satirizes free-love, the ... See full summary »
Brian De Palma
Robert De Niro,
Rock opera version of "The Phantom of the Opera" which also serves as a dark satire of the music business. Notorious record tycoon Swan has sold his soul to the devil for eternal youth and success - 20 years ago. Swan's current scheme is to steal the music from meek and nerdy composer Winslow Leach to celebrate the opening of his rock palace, The Paradise. While trying to stop Swan, Leach was framed and convicted for drug dealing, and becomes the victim of a freak accident that leaves him horribly disfigured. He takes refuge in the cavernous Paradise, hiding his mangled face beneath an eerie mask and planning gruesome vengeance upon Swan - and everyone else who has hurt him. Written by
Max Davison <RockyHexorcist2785>
Sissy Spacek worked as set dresser for this film to assist her boyfriend, Jack Fisk, who was the film's production designer. According to Spacek, she did her job so poorly that she ruined a day's worth of filming. Spacek had also auditioned for the role of Phoenix but lost out to Jessica Harper. See more »
In the film within the film of Swan's "suicide", the devil tells Swan that the image of him on the tape will age instead of him. Yet when the Phantom watches the tape, there is no difference in the appearance between the Swan on film or the Swan in "reality". See more »
The closing credits feature a series of montages of the cast members, identifying each by name, starting with the musical trio (Oblong, Hahn, Comanor) and concluding with William Finley as Winslow/The Phantom. These montages are made up of shots ostensibly from the movie, and most of them are, but there are also numerous outtakes. See more »
Mix "the Phantom of the Opera" with "Faust" and "the Picture of Dorian Gray", sprinkle it all with 1970's electric glam-rock, Gothic horror and uttermost baroque scenery and costumes. And there you get "Phantom of the Paradise", a picture that has everything to be the perfect cult movie, and would deserve much more attention than its more famous counterpart "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", released one year later.
Whereas "Rocky Horror" remains a farce all the way through, "Phantom of the Paradise" is a real tragedy in the original meaning : the story of a genial but naive musician who gets his work swindled by an evil baby-faced producer who has sold his soul to the Devil. Besides, "Phantom" is more a film about music or a film with songs in it than a proper musical, and it's better so because the story is really interesting. Like "Rocky Horror", " Phantom" is full of parody and incredible gimmicks, but the plot and the soundtrack are far superior, and on the whole, "Phantom" has a lot more class.
Many people who have seen the movie when it was released were teenagers, and it's one of those movies I know many people to have seen ten times or more. Looked at from a mature point of view, it is true that "Phantom" appears somewhat kitsch and not so profound, and it is obvious that the director must have had great fun shooting such a delirious show. But let's say then that as "typical midnight movie", "Phantom of the Paradise" remains a gripping and creative kitsch masterpiece, and still keeps up with its cult movie status thirty years after. That's what classics are all about.
Countless scenes and details would deserve comments, but let's say that two of them are really hard to forget: when the hero gets his face destroyed in a record-press after his escape from Sing-Sing in a toy box, and when he murders the campy music-hall star who usurped his music in the middle of the stage, by shooting a neonlight across his chest as the climax of a hysterical rock concert.
Interesting to know that the same three singers successively impersonate a parody of a sixties group with banana hairdos and falsetto voices, a nutty band in pants and wigs, and finally appear with ominous black and white make-up in a hard-rock performance that reminds of "Kiss". I guess you wouldn't tell if you didn't know.
The casting is very good although none of the actors seemed to have achieved real stardom. You don't get to see so much of William Finley because he wears a mask throughout much of the film, but Paul Williams, who has had a rather mediocre singing career, was perfect for the role as machiavelic producer Swan. The angelic blond face and the malign nature of the character make a very powerful contrast.
However, I found the most impressive performance was given by Jessica Harper. Her big dark eyes and deep voice make her stand out both as an accomplished actress and singer. Her talent has been unfortunately never used any better than in this movie, which was her first star role, and that's "the hell of it".
As for director Brian de Palma, I have not seen many of his films outside of this one, so I'm not too sure, but it looks like "Phantom" really has a place apart in his career. For instance, "Carrie", which got more attention, appeared very disappointing to me in comparison, much more like a B-grade horror flick. Mr de Palma certainly seems to have a fascination for blood, and "Phantom" has of course its fair share of it. Contracts are even signed with blood instead of ink...
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