Evil 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 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. However, Leach signs a contract with Swan to complete his rock opera based on the legend of Faust for an aspiring singer - Phoenix.Written by
Winslow/The Phantom picks up the video entitled "Contract of Agreement". He takes out the tape and drops the box on the floor. Then when we see all live feed screens, you can see the box back on the shelf where it originally was. 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 »
In the pre-release (or press) prints of the movie, the scene where Winslow was disfigured by the record press was longer; His disfigured face was briefly seen steaming with smoke from the press, and Winslow then killed the cop that surprised him (and shot him in the leg, which explained why Winslow walked with a limp for most of the film; however, he was able to run with the greatest of ease towards the end). The scene was removed from subsequent versions, as it was best decided that Winslow's disfigured visage be revealed at the end of the film. 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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