Phantom Of The Paradise (1974) Review

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Phantom Of The Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring:
Paul Williams
William Finley
Jessica Harper
Gerrit Graham

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise.

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My Opinion:

This movie started getting a bunch of attention this year for its 40th anniversary and I’d never even heard of it before then. When I read reviews and saw that it was some weird sort of “rock opera horror” directed by Brian De Palma and starring the great Rainbow Connection Paul Williams and that it, basically, may be responsible for giving us DAFT PUNK… Well, I had to see it! I can’t believe I’d never even heard of this now-cult-classic before. Apparently, though, it was a major flop at the time everywhere other than Paris and for some reason Winnipeg, where they worship this film and have organized Phantompalooza. I’m not sure why the movie is suddenly getting so much attention but I suppose that it’s probably down to Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo (Daft Punk) declaring their love for it when collaborating with Paul Williams for their Random Access Memories album. Having watched it now, it’s obvious what a huge influence it had on them. Check out William Finley as the Phantom in the title:

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I finally saw this movie a couple of months ago and I still can’t quite decide if it’s a brilliant masterpiece or a big pile of shit. What a way to start a review, huh?! Maybe it’s just brilliantly horrible. Horribly brilliant? Either way, although I just called this a possible pile of shit, I’ll be giving it a 7.5/10 rating (so you can stop reading & just yell at me now, Brian). πŸ˜‰ I sort of feel the same way about this movie as I did about David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. I know that, in a lot of ways, that movie was “bad” but I couldn’t help but be fascinated with it and it’s certainly one of the most memorable movies I’ve watched in the last couple of years and one I seem to come back to a lot when reviewing other movies that I liked yet can’t fully explain why. Phantom Of The Paradise was the same for me and totally worth being the only full price Blu-ray I’ve purchased for myself in ages, even if I WAS thinking to myself “what the fuck?!” the entire time I was watching it.

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Phantom Of The Paradise is a combination of The Phantom Of The Opera (obviously), Faust, and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I’m not sure why it never achieved the success of two other similar films that both came out a year later – Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It certainly feels a lot more ambitious than either of those, which I suppose may have been the problem? There’s a lot going on in Phantom and it maybe tries to be too many things at once. The other two aren’t really any less strange than Phantom, though. Unfortunately, the biggest problem may just be that the songs aren’t as good. Sorry, Paul Williams! I think you’re awesome and I love what you did with Daft Punk and Rainbow Connection is my favorite Muppets song. But, unlike in Tommy or Rocky Horror, there’s nothing really memorable in this when it comes to the music other than maybe the main ballad which is pretty but not exactly catchy like Time Warp or even Pinball Wizard.

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I suppose I was a little upset that I was left unsure of how I felt about this movie once it finished as I’d hyped it up in my mind to possibly be some kind of undiscovered gem that I’d absolutely love. Well, there ARE things I really liked about it. Images such as the one above are what helped to convince me to watch this. The band is known as The Undeads, which is their third and best incarnation in the film as they keep changing their style to suit whatever record producer Swan (Paul Williams) thinks the public wants. This is in contrast to composer Winslow Leach, played by William Finley, who cares only about the music itself instead of fame and who (obviously) ends up the “Phantom” of the film. Paul Williams’ Swan is an evil & greedy record producer and owner of “The Paradise” concert hall. Williams is great as some sort of satanic little brother to David Cassidy. Check him out:

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The best thing about this film is the main story between Williams’ Swan & Finley’s The Phantom. I loved the cause of The Phantom’s disfigurement and, of course, THE scene that is clearly the one that turned those lightbulbs on above Daft Punk’s heads. (Slight spoiler but not really if you know Phantom Of The Opera): The Phantom’s vocal chords have been destroyed along with his face so he not only needs to wear the strange silver helmet but also must use an electronic voice-box to talk (and sing). I wish I could find a clip of the scene to share here but can only find some images:

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I should also give a quick mention to Jessica Harper, of Suspiria fame, who plays The Phantom’s muse Γ  la The Phantom Of The Opera and Gerrit Graham as a camp glam rocker. Both were really good in two fairly big roles and the below shower scene was pretty cool:

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Summary:

I know this review was far longer than my usual reviews but if I’ve talked at least ONE person into checking out this movie, I’ll be very happy. Is it good? Is it shit? I’m honestly still not sure. I’ve said it a few times recently but these are the types of films that actually make me want to run a movie blog. I’ll always watch & review loads of mainstream films but they rarely excite me in the same sort of way that the more “unusual” or artistic films do. I’d rather watch something extremely memorable like this than just another cookie cutter film made with a profit in mind. The main theme (of many) in Phantom Of The Paradise is timeless – art over profit. We need more Phantoms in this world but, unfortunately, there will always be more Swans.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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You know I have to end this with Touch, the Daft Punk/Paul Williams collaboration on Random Access Memories: πŸ™‚

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49 thoughts on “Phantom Of The Paradise (1974) Review

  1. This looks freaky and weird fo’ sho! Paul Williams he is so weird looking. Have you ever seen the documentary Paul Williams Still Alive? You might find that interesting… it’s a look at his life and what happened to the guy.

    • I think you MIGHT find this one interesting at least, Melissa – you should give it a try! No, I’ve not seen that documentary but really want to now. I actually just watched the Daft Punk movie Electroma the other night and that made this one seem completely normal & mainstream! I think I’ll watch the Paul Williams thing as well now then review the both of those too. πŸ™‚

  2. One of my fave films and a real cult classic. The Blu-ray transfer is amazing and I was quite pleased with how well it stood up some 25 years after I first saw it on TV!

    • Yay! I found a fan! For a while I was afraid that my only comment on this review would be one “WTF?”. Lol. πŸ™‚ I’m still surprised I hadn’t heard of this one before this year. Are you a fan of Daft Punk as well? Because after watching this I decided to finally watch their Electroma movie. Loved it. Thought it was far weirder than this one… πŸ™‚

      • I think you’ll find this is a very well received cult classic and there was plenty of elation when the Blu-ray came out back in Feb! I gave it a 5 star review! πŸ˜‰

        I’m afraid I don’t know Daft Punk. Aside from a couple of Japanese bands my modern musical knowledge stops around 1998! :-\

        This film appealed to me as I liked the horror/Phantom aspect and because as a big KISS fan the scene of the face painted rock band caught my eye! πŸ˜›

        I think a lot of people miss the point of this being a satire on the record/music industry and that some of it is supposed to be deliberately OTT. If you get that, everything falls into place. πŸ™‚

      • Oh – I have to read your review! I will very soon – just need to get this stupid Xmas thing out of the way then I can finally catch up on reading blogs!!! πŸ˜‰ Ohh – you should give Daft Punk a listen! Their last album is so unlike their other stuff – it has a 70’s feel (my favorite decade for music). I feel like you’d go for the Daft Punk thing – at least their image. You should watch Electroma. That’s cool you’re a KISS fan – the band in this were certainly KISS-like! I did like that, although the music industry appears VERY different today what with itunes, etc, it’s still very much the same when it comes to greed and those with TRUE talent not getting the recognition they deserve. Funny how that never changes. The movie really is just as relevant today – I think people are just afraid of the “70’s-ness” of it. Which is a shame. :-/

      • I would have thought that as film buffs, people would want to see this purely out of interest of it being a Brian DePalma film, just two years prior to “Carrie”.

        Sometimes, going back to discover a well known director’s early work yields some gems, and I count “Phantom” as one those occasions.

      • I’m back to reply! Finally. πŸ˜‰ Took a break on blog reading over the Xmas period. Yeah, I find it weird that film buffs often don’t explore a director’s (or actor’s or whoever’s) older work sometimes. It was interesting seeing the similarities to Carrie & the ways he did improve (I do really like Carrie). I’m going to check out that link you posted now! Sounds interesting. πŸ™‚

    • Lol. Creepy little troll guy? You would think you could relate to that! πŸ˜‰ You know, there are only maybe three or four bloggers I could think of that I’d recommend this to and you were MAYBE kind of one of them. You should give it a try! You love Daft Punk, right?? See their influences! πŸ™‚

    • Aww. I’m sorry you feel that way. It grew on me after thinking about it in order to write this review. It certainly had some very boring bits, though! Some horrible pacing… It did feel much longer than it actually was!

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    • Thank you, Vic! Sorry – I’m SO behind on replying. 😦 Took a break for a couple of weeks around Xmas. Think I saw your name pop up a couple times – hope to find all the comments I’ve missed from everyone! Anyway – I’m so glad to hear from another fan of this movie. πŸ™‚ Most people haven’t seen this one judging by the comments. Happy I’ve finally seen it!

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