Phantom Of The Paradise

DECEMBER 2, 2007


For the 2nd time in one technical day, I found myself at the New Beverly Cinema in LA. While Slumber Party Massacre was a midnight movie as part of an unrelated series, tonight began “The Wright Stuff”, a 2 week festival in which Edgar Wright, genius behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, would be showing his favorite movies, and bringing surprise guests. Tonight kicked off with a double feature celebrating songwriter Paul Williams. First was Bugsy Malone, which wasn’t horror, so who cares about that (for the record - OK film, great songs). After that was Phantom of the Paradise, an early Brian De Palma film that I had never gotten around to seeing, despite some BC-centric perks (for example, many have said that some of the songs are Steinman-esque, and now, having seen it, I am inclined to agree).

Before I begin rambling about the movie proper, I just want to point out how much you are missing if you don’t go out to your local revival theater, ESPECIALLY if you happen to be an LA resident and thus your revival theater is in fact, the New Beverly. Because, over the course of 3-4 hrs, I saw:

  • Scott Caan try, unsuccessfully, to start his motorcycle. It took him a good 5 minutes' worth of attempts to get it going.
  • Quentin Tarantino sang a song from Ishtar (a “secret” 3rd film that I was too tired to wait around for)
  • A mini-Grindhouse reunion of sorts, as not only were Edgar and Quentin there, but Eli Roth showed up and ate one of my friend’s cookies (I assume that he had other reasons for being there, but they were good cookies so I dunno).
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead (also from Grindhouse!). She didn’t do anything interesting, but have you seen her? She’s hot.
  • The guy who plays Superman in front of the Mann’s theaters (LA folk will know the one) WITHOUT his Superman costume on! He had it with him, of course, but he was wearing something else.
  • The Hudson Hawk trailer (before Ishtar - I am sure you can figure out the connection)!

Also, because he’s a bit absent-minded, my friends and I ended up paying for Edgar Wright’s quesadilla and diet coke. Since I got my Hot Fuzz DVD for free I guess it evens out.

Plus, you know, movies! Phantom was a lot of fun, but the finale was very abrupt (and really needed another song). Horror + Musical is not a very common mix, so it was understandably appealing to me, lover of all things atypical. And, like I have mentioned before, the only time I enjoy the Phantom of the Opera story is when it is being “modernized” in some way (Phantom of the Mall, Argento’s Opera...).

However, in addition to the Phantom story, this one also has elements of Faust and Dorian Gray, plus, being a De Palma film, several smaller homages to other movies/stories. And, while I doubt it was intentional, the killer’s get up looks quite much like that of the Prince of Space, so that’s always a plus.

One thing that struck me as odd – the film was shot 1.85:1, but had a split screen segment (in fact it’s one of the films highlights). You’d think that De Palma, who is a master of the wide image, would want to go scope for this reason, but alas. Carrie was like this as well. It’s crucial to see the whole image, and this was pre-pan&scan VHS anyway, so you gotta wonder why he wouldn’t want to give himself more room to work with. Hell, Blow Out, when shown on TV, even goes back to widescreen during the split screen segment. Speaking of Carrie, as is the norm at the New Beverly, some “themed” trailers showed before the movie, in this case other De Palma movies. The Carrie trailer spells Stephen King’s name wrong (“Steven”). He’s a writer, that’s a fineable offense! Misspelled credits make me sick!!!

Paul Williams’ songs are fantastic; I might even have to pick up the soundtrack. The first ballad that William Finley sings on the piano is worth the cost alone, if you can find it. Williams himself plays the “real” villain of the film, yet doesn’t sing as much as I was hoping. In fact, it barely qualifies as a musical; there’s only like 5 or 6 songs in the whole thing. But without the songs the film would be nowhere near as memorable, making it all the more impressive how much impact they have, considering the relatively small amount of time of the film that is devoted to them. Jessica Harper (she was damn hot back in the day) has a few songs as well, and made me want to watch Shock Treatment again. “Bitchin’ in the kitchen, or cryin’ in the bedroom all niiiiiiiiight!” And then of course, there’s Beef:

For a PG movie it’s pretty insane, I can’t imagine how a kid would react to it. It’s one of those movies that makes you wish the rating system reflected the audience the film was intended for – it’s kind of odd that on a surface level, the MPAA is saying that the (PG-13) Harry Potter movies are less appropriate for children than a movie about a guy who kills a whole bunch of folks trying to get revenge on a drug using devil worshiper who stole from him.

What say you?


  1. I'm an on and off DePalma fan, but you've got me curious. Gonna have to hunt down a copy of this one....and some of those cookies your friend baked.

  2. i will take over the world with my cookies!

    bwahahahahahah!!!!! (evil laugh)

    but seriously though, i loved Phantom. it made me wanna go home and just like you made me wanna go home and immediately watch Shock Treatment. being a lover of cult cinema i was shocked that i had never heard of this gem.

  3. Actually, he looks more like a member of Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets.

    Anyway, I've heard DePalma is writing a remake. And hell, I'd like to have Mr. Wright direct it. (Pretty much because I think Noel Fielding would be great as a visual kei-type Phantom, he's a British comedian/TV actor...sadly, not many people outside the US know who he is...)

    Of course, I pretty much think the whole Phil Spector thing might be tossed out because of life imitating art, if you know what I mean....hell, I can imagine Swann being based on Simon Cowell...

  4. Great review, I agree totally. I saw Phantom
    the first time at 14 years old and I went out and bought the soundtrack on LP. Now I have it on CD and the music still stands up to this day!


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