Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Director: Brian de Palma
Starring: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, and Garrit Graham
Rated: PG
Genre: Horror, Musical, Cult Classic
Run Time: 92 minutes

A disfigured, Phantom-esque anti-hero, a Faustian deal, and a trade straight out of The Picture of Dorian Gray; add a some awesome 70s music, a transvestite rock star, and black leather, and you have The Phantom of the Paradise. After his life's work is stolen by a demonic music producer and his face crushed in a record press, timid composer Winslow Leach sells his soul to ensure that the woman he loves will be able to sing his rendition of Faust at the opening of Swan's new music hall, The Paradise.

To be completely honest, I didn't think I was going to like this movie when I first started.  In fact, I thought it looked pretty dumb.  Mostly, I was watching it because of the Phantom of the Opera ties, and I just love POTO.  Looking at the trailer online, though, I couldn't help but think it was a nasty cross-over between POTO and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  But, The Phantom of Paradise is so much more!

Finley portrays a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist, Winslow Leach; tormented, abused, and eventually destroyed by Swan (Williams).  Besides his heart-wrenching portrayal of a 1970s American version of Leroux's classic character Erik, he also had really awesome makeup and a cool costume.  Its not too often that you see a Phantom dressed in black leather and donning a silver helmet instead of just a mask.  He was by far my favorite character in the movie.

As for the villainous Swan, Paul Williams was perfect!  Definitely one of the best "devils" I've seen in films.  His aura of mystery in the beginning leaves the audience in the dark just as much as Winslow, but the more we learn the more devious he becomes.  This is the first Paul Williams movie I've seen, and I'm very impressed with his acting.  He doesn't over act.  His character is powerful, devious, and harboring a dark secret, but he seems pretty cool with that.  Nothing worries him because he's already attained eternity.

Even though the movie was only rated PG, one must remember that PG-13 was not yet a rating, and honestly, I would not show this film to any children.  Its definitely PG-13.  The topics are too heavy for younger audiences, and the double unmasking at the end is going to be a little too intense.  That being said, the makeup was amazing for both of the unmaskings (although a little graphic); and (I believe) provided the desired effect. 

The best scene in the movie, though, without a doubt, had to be the shower scene when Winslow, in the guise of the Phantom, confronts rock-star Beef (Graham).  I'm not going to say too much, but it does involve a plunger. ^_^

If you're a POTO fan, you might enjoy this film, although I will say that its not as true to the story as some of the other versions are; in fact, apart from a disfigurement, a mask, an "opera house" (in this case a rock hall), and a character very loosely based on Christine, its not very POTO at all.  There's no Raoul, the manger is the villain, and the Phantom actually works for him!  Finley's Phantom is much more timid and weak than most of the others; you would never see Lon Chaney's cowering from an unarmed man who's over a foot shorter than him!  (6'4"/5'2")  But even so, I'd recommend this movie to anyone who's curious about it; its well worth it to check it out.  If nothing else, at least listen to the amazing soundtrack.  Most of the songs are written by Paul Williams (Swan).

**This movie has 2 bonus features!**

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