23rd Feb2014

‘Phantom of the Paradise’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, Peter Elbling | Written and Directed by Brian De Palma


If I was to confess that I’d not seen Phantom of the Paradise before I was sent the Arrow Video Blu-ray release for review I’m sure there are many out there who haven’t seen it too.  For somebody like me though who has an obsession with films I’ve not seen yet (they tend to pray on my mind), I jump at the chance to see films like Phantom of the Paradiseand with this release I’m very glad I did.

Phantom of the Paradise is a rock opera that takes a little dash of Faust, a little Phantom of the Opera and some The Picture of Dorian Gray and creates something pretty spectacular.  It tells the tale of Winslow Leach (William Finley) a composer whose music is stolen from him by Swan (Paul Williams), who then sets him up leading him to be imprisoned.  On escaping Leach is involved in an accident that disfigures him, and Swan makes him a proposal, sell his soul to him and he’ll give him back his music and allow him to complete his rock opera for Phoenix (Jessica Harper), the women he loves.

It’s fair to say that the story for Phantom of the Paradise isn’t the strongest seen in this type of film but what makes it special and stand out above the crowd is the music by Paul Williams who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film.  This is very much Williams’ film, as it’s his music and he of course plays Swan the lead villain and steals many of the scenes he is in.  That is not to say that William Finley is not excellent as Winslow Leach/The Phantom, his performance is also excellent and many of the most memorable scenes are created by him and his interpretation of The Phantom.

For fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show I would argue that this is a must see movie, and I believe this was shown many times as a double bill, which does show that the two do fit well together.  For fans of Brian De Palma, or just fans of film this is also an interesting watch as De Palma’s is laid thick, even down to a double screen section which sets up one of the best scenes of the movie.  Phantom of the Paradise is over the top, and extravagant, and with plenty of music there is a feel that can be compared to The Who’s Tommy.  Many of the scenes with Beef (Gerrit Graham) and the band who play with him (The Undeads, who are also The Juicy Fruits and The Beach Bums) Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Peter Elbling add an element of comedy to what in many respects is meant to be a tragedy.  Add to these Jessica Harper who went on to star in Suspiria and this is quite a cast.

Where Arrow Video have really excelled in this release is the quality of extras (and of course the picture quality of the movie).  The most impressive extra though, especially for movie fans is the 72-minute interview with Paul Williams by Guillermo del Toro, just hearing these two friends talk not only about Phantom of the Paradise but other films Williams has worked on is very enjoyable and something you wish would last longer.  There is also a 50-minute documentary Paradise Regained, looking at the movie itself as well as The Swan Song Fiasco looking at the controversy about the usage of the name Swan.

With an isolated music track and a steelbook release Arrow Video have really outdone themselves with the release of Phantom of the Paradise and for me, as a big fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it really does work for me.  It’s also a nice education as to just how influential Paul Williams is, his importance to movies and music.  I’d go as far as to say this is an excellent tribute to the man himself, not just the work he did with Phantom of the Paradise.

Phantom of the Paradise is released in the UK on Blu-ray, courtesy of Arrow Video, on February 24th.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

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