Who wants an original twist on a familiar idea? While the practice is commonplace nowadays, it wasn’t quite the case in the 1970s. Sure, the ’70s had plenty of changes implemented but there were still people out there thinking inside the box.
Enter the mind of Brian De Palma, the director behind Carrie (1976), Scarface (1983), and Mission: Impossible (1996), just to name a few. With only a few credits to his name, De Palma had an idea to combine several classic literature tropes into one glorious film called Phantom of the Paradise. At the time, the film was simply too much for the average movie goer, but has since gone on to become a cult favorite. Just so you know, in order for me to talk about this movie, I will have to mention spoilers.
Phantom of the Paradise was released 45 years ago on October 31, 1974. It follows Winslow Leach (William Finley), a musician looking for his big break. Music producer Swan (Paul Williams) hears Winslow playing at one of his clubs and sends his right hand man down to offer him a recording contract in exchange for his music, only to not follow through on his promise.
As Winslow attempts to regain his music, he meets Phoenix (Jessica Harper), who’s looking to gain a part in the opening of a new Swan’s club, the Titular Paradise. After he’s is caught, he’s sent to prison, where his teeth are replaced with metal dentures. He then hears his music being performed by Swan’s band, enraging him. During his escape, Winslow’s face and vocal chords are smashed in a record press. He eventually finds a costume, becomes the Phantom and begins his revenge. There’s a lot more I can say, but I’d rather you see it for yourself.
As stated, Phantom of the Paradise did not do well with theater goers, but it received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Not only did he act in the film, but Paul Williams also provided the music, singing Winslow’s parts himself. Rod Serling even provided the opening narration, albeit uncredited.
Watch Phantom of the Paradise right now!
If I can be honest, I like Phantom of the Paradise. First time I saw it was in 2008. The film opened with a monologue from Thomas Rothman, then Chief Executive Officer of Fox Studios, where he told a touching story about how he met his wife, Actress Jessica Harper. He said after seeing her in the movie, he asked his brother, who happened to work on the film, to introduce them. They’went out on a date and eventually married in 1989.
While Phantom of the Paradise may not match everyone’s tastes, I hope the ones who are interested will check it out.