Starring: Paul Williams, William Finley, Gerrit Graham, Jessica Harper and George Memmoli
Running Time: 92 minutes
Being a massive fan of writer and director Brian De Palma even since those early years and it soon became apparent his approach to filmmaking is unique. Visually, he’s been one of the best for decades with camerawork often dizzying to the point of breathlessness. Like most, he is prone to a few career missteps along the way in his distinguished career. De Palma does however, weave between mainstream and independent eccentricity like no other with many of his features fusing those two aspects. He’s a director that you look at and think, that guy directed CARRIE and SCARFACE; RAISING CAIN and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE; BODY DOUBLE and CARLITO’S WAY. Really? Cinema so far apart in scope and personality, yet intrinsically and artistically linked in style and substance.
With his bizarre but captivating 1974 rock opera PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, the maverick director crafted something wholly original despite merging the familiar age old tale of Faust with Gaston Leroux’s legendary 1910 novel ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ and even Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. Still in the early stages of his career, he roped in frequent collaborator and friend William Finley as the lead Winslow Leach, a promising singer/songwriter and composer who finds himself betrayed, imprisoned and disfigured by devious record producer Swan. Finley’s tragic, wide-eyed protagonist is terrific. As for the role of the latter, DePalma persuaded iconic musical composer Paul Williams to play the villain – as well as write the entire music and lyrics for the film!
The set direction and costumes add a layer of eccentric charm akin to Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and like that cult classic, have dated wildly while remaining intoxicating and in perfect contrast to the mixture of rock n’ roll, prog rock, folk, glam rock and pop music depicted throughout. Some really memorable songs helped PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE nab Paul Williams a Oscar nod. Speaking of Williams, the short stature of the man is amusing for all the right reasons as he comes across as the love child of POLTERGEIST’s Zelda Rubinstein and Jimmy Krankie, with an egotistical edge of mystique and a snigger-some sexual threat to the Phantom’s doomed romance with the stunning Phoenix (Jessica Harper).
(4 / 5) PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is released on limited edition Blu-ray via Arrow Films from the 24th February.