Phantom of the Paradise (1974) d. De Palma, Brian (USA)
Two years before he emerged as a superstar filmmaker with Carrie, De Palma concocted this comedy/horror re-working of Phantom of the Opera. When enigmatic studio magnate Swan (Paul Williams, in a stroke of inspired casting) steals aspiring composer William Finley’s rock opera version of Faust, the spurned tunesmith swears vengeance. As he attempts to sabotage the Death Records offices, Finley’s face and vocal cords are destroyed in a horrific record pressing accident, transforming him into a masked freak haunting Swan’s new rock opera house, the Paradise.
Walking a fine satirical line between horror and farce, the movie explodes out of the gates with fierce comic bravado, riding the energy of its rollicking musical numbers (penned by Williams). Unfortunately, the film cannot sustain its momentum and ends up treading some serious water, despite the best efforts of De Palma’s characteristic swirling camerawork and game cast. That said, the explosive, fiery finale provides enough juice to even the scales.
Jessica Harper makes her film debut as the unlikeliest rock starlet ever, Gerrit Graham gives a fine fruity performance as Beef, Swan’s new protégé, and you gotta love those Juicy Fruits!
Despite numerous pointed allusions to the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll lifestyle (not to mention a few bloody bits), the film received a PG rating when released!