Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

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8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking and fun movie

Over the top and very '70s look could be a turn off to some viewers expecting more horror

 
Movie Info

Movie Name:  Phantom of the Paradise

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Genre(s):  Comedy/Musical/Horror

Release Date(s):  October 31, 1974

MPAA Rating:  PG

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Admit it…you love my flow-y hair!

Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a performer with a dream and a gift for music.  He has written a great concerto based on the story of Faust, but when his work is stolen by music mogul named Swan (Paul Williams), his dream is forfeited.  Imprisoned by Swan, Winslow finds himself subjected to torture and maimed when he manages to escape.  With a promise to restore his voice, Winslow enters an uneasy agreement with Swan to save himself and his muse Phoenix (Jessica Harper).  The Paradise is set to open, and it will be explosive!

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Who’s ready to rock!

Directed by Brian De Palma, Phantom of the Paradise is a comedy-horror rock opera based on Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera from 1909, the story of Faust, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray from 1890.  The movie initially failed upon its release but has since become a cult classic with the rise of De Palma as a popular director.  The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music—Original Score for Paul Williams’ work.

I saw Phantom of the Paradise at a pretty young age and as a young viewer, I saw the horror of the story more than I did the comedy or music.  As an older viewer, it is good to go back to Phantom of the Paradise which is a really unique combination of music, comedy, and horror which is a product of the time…and a great deal of fun as a result.

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Oh yeah…you should see the other guy!

The story of the movie is almost a farce or parody of the stories involved in a very Shakespearian (comedy) type story.  There is a tragic nature to the story, but there is a wink and a nod to the story that overrides the tragedy.  The horror aspect of the story is not only the physical nature (teeth pulled, record press crushing, Williams’ face melt) but also the idea of a stolen life…it is  a sense of dread that lurks over the whole story.

The cast is quite strong.  William Finley gives life to the geeky Winslow Leach and is effectively scary as the Phantom.  Paul Williams always creeped me out as a kid and is a bit scarier than he probably is in this movie because of it (Williams also provided the Phantom’s singing voice).  Jessica Harper (who later went on to Suspiria) beat out Linda Ronstadt for the role and her character seems to channel Karen Carpenter.  The real scene stealer in the movie is Gerrit Graham as the glam rocker Beef who meets his tragic fate during his performance.  There is also a nice, Twilight Zone opening scene with a voice over by Rod Serling.

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The Phantom does his best imitation of Norman Bates…

The visuals for the movie are so over the top and a great example of De Palma’s early work.  The split screens and the campy feel almost emotes a Troma Films type look but with much more class.  With the musical aspect of the story, the film almost has a Rocky Horror Picture Show type feel at points and the movie has been presented in a similar fashion at points since its release.

Phantom of the Paradise is an oddity and a welcomed oddity.  The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and as a result is rather fun.  The mish-mash story combines a lot of aspects of classic tales into a modern setting and presents them in a fun way.  The movie also had an effect on later De Palma productions.  Sissy Spacek worked on the set as a set-dresser with her boyfriend and later went on to be cast in Carrie along with Betty Buckley who helped provide vocals here.  Phantom of the Paradise is a great throwback and a worthwhile venture for fans of De Palma and the stories involved.

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Related Links:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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