Sunday, February 11, 2007

Phantom of the Paradise

Here's a quick synopsis from All Movie Guide:

"He sold his soul for rock-n-roll," read the tagline for Brian De Palma's satirical "Phantom of the Opera" for the '70s rock scene. After hearing Winslow Leach (William Finley) perform a song from his "Faust" rock opera, Phil Spector-ish impresario Swan (Paul Williams) decides that Winslow's opera would be the perfect debut attraction for his new rock palace, the Paradise. Swan steals the music and has Winslow imprisoned -- but not before Winslow meets aspiring songbird Phoenix (Jessica Harper). Jumping prison, Winslow breaks into Swan's Death Records factory to ruin the recordings, but a record press accident grossly disfigures him. Winslow then sneaks into the Paradise to sabotage Swan's show, disguising himself as the Phantom. Swan, however, cuts a deal with the Phantom to finish his cantata; he promises that Phoenix will sing it but then reneges, hiring prissy glam rocker Beef (Gerrit Graham). Determined to have Phoenix sing, the Phantom soon discovers just how far Swan will go to give the people what they want. Lucia Bozzola

This is one of my favorite movies from when I was a kid and even though it was released in 1974, I saw it in 1977 as a double feature with "Star Wars." The only reason for mentioning that is because I'm pretty sure George Lucas saw in when it was released because 'the Phantom' has some striking similarities to a certain dark lord of the Sith. Maybe it's just my overactive imagination.

Anyway, this is a really fun movie with great direction from, as well as being written by, Brian De Palma. Paul Williams does a superb job with the music and while the movie is satirical in nature, the music and lyrics are well written and, in some cases, melodramatic, but never 'hokey'. My favorite character, by far, is Gerrit Graham's, Beef, the over the top heavy metal glam rocker. His character is such a perfect amalgam of rockers of that time as well as rockers that were to be. In fact, this film is rather prophetic in the area of 'things to come' because by 1985, there were at least 10 or 12 'Beef' clones on MTV.

Basically, if you like rock, a little camp, "Phantom of the Opera", "Faust" and even a little "The Picture of Dorian Gray," then you may enjoy this movie. Oh, and during some of the audition scenes, try not to think of "American Idol."

Side note: I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that Brian De Palma is working on a script for an updated remake with a projected release of 2010.


Chris said...

John, I'm sorry - I just can't give you this one. I've seen this movie and it is truly awful. I can't even justify it's existence in the spoof realm. It's bad, so bad.

The Blues Brothers - now there's a good musical. Love that film.

John Taylor said...

I know, I know - but it tries really hard. Plus, I always give it credit for what it was trying to accomplish in 1974 and I'm sure the fact that I was just a kid when I first saw it has caused it to remain in favor with me all this time.

And you're absolutely right, "The Blues Brothers" is an excellent musical and comedy (even Spielberg is funny)but it's in a class all it's own. Should we mention the sequel?

Vaughn Michael said...

this movie is simply amazing.
I hope the remake is like the book!