PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (Collector’s Edition) Blu-ray Review
It’s become imprinted in our culture to compare things in pop culture and I believe Quentin Tarantino was once quoted as saying “You can like Elvis and you can like The Beatles, but you could only love one or the other,” or something to that effect. If you ask me which midnight cult movie I adored the most, I’ll tell you Phantom Of The Paradise over Rocky Horror Picture Show any day of the week.
Thanks to Scream Factory this marvelous oddity has gotten the treatment it deserves and revisiting this treasure was just as fun as the first time I laid eyes on it. Like a monster created in a lab, Brian DePalma’s satirical rock opera is like a hybrid of Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust, that deconstructs, pays tribute and even prophesies different eras throughout Rock n’ Roll history.
Winslow Leach played by William Finley (Sisters) is a song composer and singer who gets discovered by a record producer named Swan (Paul Williams) during his performance as a back-up to The Juicy Fruits, who are basically a nostalgic send-up of Sha Na Na. The diabolical Swan finds Winslow’s music perfect to open “The Paradise”, his highly anticipated new concert hall – and orders one of his minions to steal it. When Winslow discovers Swan’s plan to open the Paradise with his stolen music and attempts to intervene, he ends up beaten and wrongfully thrown in jail for drug dealing.
After breaking out of his life sentence at Sing Sing with shiny metal choppers, courtesy of an experimental program funded by the Swan Foundation, a pissed off Winslow breaks into the Death Records building to get his revenge and an accident finds a newly deformed Winslow donning a cape and silver, owl-like mask sworn to terrorize Swan and his musicians who are now called The Beach Bums (members of The Juicy Fruits now doing The Beach Boys).
Winslow is provided with an electronic voice-box to speak, compliments of Swan and is contracted to rewrite his material for a beautiful and talented singer Phoenix (portrayed by Jessica Harper of Suspiria fame) in blood. Winslow completes his work and becomes furious once again when Phoenix is replaced with a glam rocker called “Beef”, who’s given a standout performance of weirdness and hilarity by Gerritt Graham (Terrorvision).
Phantom Of The Paradise doesn’t age because director Brian de Palma created an extravagant canvas that’s both timeless and completely alien. This is the standard for cult movies because a talented filmmaker was really at his most daring and ambitious. Paul Williams’ music especially is just fantastic and compliments the remarkable set design and chaotic cinematography, forming a hallucinogenic euphoria of cinematic madness. When The Undeads (formerly The Beach Bums) are playing on stage with their Alice Cooper meets The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari theatrics, I can imagine countless people simultaneously having their minds blown and starting horror themed punk bands in their garages. Hopefully this release will catch enough attention to convince more people that Rocky Horror isn’t the only movie worth playing at midnight.
Phantom Of The Paradise fans should have no complaints about the extra features that Scream Factory have put together, some of them have been carried over from earlier releases, but many are new with this 2 disc collector’s edition. There are two new audio commentary tracks, one featuring producer Jack Fisk and the other features Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and The Juicy Fruits (Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, and Harold Oblong aka Peter Ebling). There’s an awesome 36 minute interview with Brian DePalma, a half hour interview with Paul Williams discussing the music from the film and an interview with special effects artist Tom Burman discussing the Phantom Helmet and that’s just the Blu-ray disc.
The DVD disc features include the documentary “Paradise Regained,” a very extensive Paul Williams interview moderated by Guillermo Del Toro, there’s also interviews with producer Edward R. Pressman and drummer Gary Mallaber, plus Radio Spots, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer and more. This is by far one of my favorite releases from Scream Factory so far, so do yourself a favor and watch this with your friends, just remember “They’ll want more now. They want much more. They want more than you could ever give.”