Dusting Off... Phantom of the Paradise
What is it?
Brian De Palma's long career as a director has produced some truly brilliant films, from macabre horrors Carrie and Dressed To Kill, through gangster flicks like Scarface and The Untouchables, to bombastic action blockbusters such as Mission: Impossible. De Palma has pretty much done it all, but back in the 70s when he was enjoying his first successes in the movie industry he'd carved out a niche for himself making odd and often comically gory films like The Fury. When it comes to the downright weird though, 1974's Phantom of the Paradise has to be the pick of the bunch.
Described as an 'unofficial remake' of Phantom of the Opera, De Palma's film takes the basic idea of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical and transplants it to a nightmarish world that has more in common with The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Little Shop of Horrors.
In De Palma's version, William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a young and talented – but naïve – composer who sells his soul for success in the hope that the girls he loves, a singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper), will perform his music. However, Leach's dreams are soon dashed when he finds that the contract he has signed with nefarious music mougul Swan (Paul Williams), who also owns a theatre and club named The Paradise, has left Swan with full ownership of his music.
When Leach tries to confront Swan, an accident leaves him horribly disfigured,, although everybody including Swan presumes he has been killed. To make matters worse, Swan hooks up with the girl of Leach's dreams, Phoenix. Enraged by Swan's treachery, Leach creates a disguise and vows to take revenge on Swan by 'haunting' his venue, terrorising its performers and audiences.
Why should I revisit?
Brian De Palma was one of a wave of directors along with the likes of John Carpenter and George A. Romero who rode to success with the emerging genre of low-budget horror films during the 1970s, and with films like Carrie he made some of the era's best. He's since gone on to bigger and better things, but if nothing else this film is a window into his weird and wonderful early career, plus it's great fun to watch and for any Daft Punk fans who might be readin, this film was rumoured to be the inspiration for their robot helmets, weird as that may seem.
Who will enjoy it?
If you're one of those people who has been to see The Rocky Horror Show more than five times, or if you enjoyed schlocky, sleazy musicals like Little Shop of Horrors or Hedwig and the Angry Inch, this will be right up your street. If you really hate musicals of all kinds then maybe this isn't for you, but anyone with a sense of humour and a liking for cheap thrills will enjoy this film.