Phantom of the Paradise Reviews
I loved the sets and the strong sense of humor throughout. The music being genuinely good and listenable also really helps push this movie over the edge into 'brilliant' territory. It's also interesting to see how the cinematography in this, along with De Palma gore, totally helped shape that 80s and especially 90s film style.
The Film Stars William Finley As Winslow Leach A Composer/Performer whose Music Is Stolen By Record Producer Swan (Williams), Swan Gets Leach Locked Up And Intends To Use His Rock Opera To Open The Paradise Theatre With. Leach Escapes And After An Unfortunate Accident With A Record Pressing Machine Becomes The Phantom.
Few Revenge Scenarios Have Ever Been So Amply Justified, But The Film Is Also Constantly Aware Of The Satirical Possibilities Offered By The 1970's Music Industry, Exemplified By Gerrit Graham's Hilariously Camp Glam Rocker. Jessica Harper (Suspiria, Shock Treatment) Appears In Her Film Debut, As The Na´ve But Ambitious Singer, On Whom Winslow Secretly Dotes.
Prodigiously Inventive Both Musically And Visually, This Is One Of De Palma's Most Entertaining Romps, That Satire's The Music Industry The Way 1981's Shock Treatment Satire's The TV Industry (In Which Harper Also Stars). An Extremely Entertaining Film From Start To Finish Which Features All The Director's Trademarks.
Playing on the distinctions of "The Phantom of the Opera" in ways that suggest an update rather than sheer homage, "Phantom of the Paradise" stars Paul Williams as Swan, a radical music producer in the process of preparing for the grand opening of The Paradise, a concert hall meant to capitalize on the recent outbreak of glam rock. Ruthless but possessed with unparalleled good taste, he sees potential in Winslow Leach (William Finely), an aspiring songwriter whose audition to become one of The Paradise's main acts captures the hearts of the men leading the project as if he's Harry Nilsson's twin.
But Swan, put off by Leach's eccentricity, can see that such a man, despite incredible musical skill, will never become a star in the eyes of the public. So he throws him out of the building like an American Idol reject, sneakily stealing his music and claiming it as his own. A month or so later, Leach seeks followthrough from Swan, who told the man that a bit of passing time would lead to a record deal of some sort. But once again, he is thrown out like yesterday's trash, with Swan dropping a few ounces of hard drugs into Leach's bag in order to really get rid of him - shortly after, he is placed in the slammer, a life sentence, due to possession of narcotics.
Almost a year passes by, and, after finally having enough of his new, tortured life, Leach defiantly escapes, but gets badly injured in the process. He decides to hide out in the almost completed Paradise, where Swan's factory of musicians is rehearsing for his upcoming rock rendition of Faust. Leach, who now reigns as the Phantom of the Paradise, initially wreaks havoc upon the theatre, almost killing Swan's most important assets in the process. But the latter promises the The Phantom that he can rewrite much of the music for the play so long as he lets him produce it his way. The Phantom hesitantly complies, but, expectedly, immediately comes to regret it as what was once his crawls into the arms of another.
Pull a microscopic out from under your theater seat and you'll find that "Phantom of the Paradise" is a stinging takedown of the music industry, albeit a supernaturally tinged one. Elements of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," "Rocky Horror," and De Palma's later works (stylistically, I mean) are evident, but push past the ebullient sheen and you'll come across a witty horror story crazier than "Network" but just as aware of the tone it's going for.
The musical performances are carried out with bubbly sensationalism, and the actors glow under the pressure of having to be campy but not too campy. I particularly liked Paul Williams's portrayal of the film's enigmatic, but slightly satanic, music producer, and Gerrit Graham's perky characterization of Beef, a glam rocker with a taste for pills and trotting around like a walking stereotype. De Palma, also the film's writer, provides "Phantom of the Paradise" with a spirited foundation that enhances his incomparable stylistic cues. So while the film isn't as admittedly good as "Rocky Horror," it still makes for one of the most criminally overlooked films of the 1970s. Strange how something this bonkers only seems to escape off the tongues of cinephiles looking for a cavorting good time.
De Palma is becoming one of my favorite director's and I have yet to see Scarface.