Phantom of the Paradise (1974) | Brian De Palma’s rock horror opera gets its best ever release on Blu-ray
HE SOLD HIS SOUL FOR ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
After his music stolen by all-powerful mogul Swan (Paul Williams), composer Winslow Leach (William Finley) seeks revenge, but ends up behind bars. Escaping jail, Leach breaks into Swan’s Death Records where he ends up mangled in a record press. Donning a disguise to hide his disfigurement, Winslow then accepts Swan’s offer to complete his Faust cantata for Phoenix (Jessica Harper), a rising singer Leach is in love with, but only if he signs a contract in blood. When Swan goes back on his word and gets the androgynous glam rocker Beef (Gerrit Graham) to sing, Leach electrocutes the singer on stage, forcing Swan to replace him with Phoenix. The film climaxes with a spectacular concert in which Swan plans to marry then assassinate Phoenix live on stage. Leach, discovering that Swan has made a pact with the Devil that allows him to remain eternally young, then plans his final, self-sacrificing, revenge…
THE MUSIC MADE HIM DO IT!
A year before Ken Russell’s Tommy, director Brian De Palma brought his Phantom of the Paradise to the big screen. This offbeat mating of pastiche horror and rock opera put a 1970s spin on the 1943 and 1962 film versions of Phantom of the Opera (both featuring a composer cheated by an unscrupulous impresario), with nods to the Faust legend, 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and even 1971’s The Abominable Dr Phibes.
The visuals are vibrant and exciting, and De Palma’s trademark split screen device is again used to great effect, while the sly record-industry jabs are frighteningly prescient (Swan’s like a cross between Phil Spector and Simon Cowell). But it’s the film’s rocking score by Paul Williams, which was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, that dominates and stays with you long after the phinal curtain call.
Phantom of the Paradise is a film that’s dated and undated over the past 40 years, but you really don’t need to know all the cinematic references to get it. And when you think that director Guillermo del Toro is its ultimate fan (he even named his daughter after Jessica Harper’s character in the movie), then you know it’s a bona fide cult that is a must see, as is this release from Arrow.
Arrow Video’s extras are packed with treasures from the Swan Archives, which has been collecting, preserving and making public all things Swan for the past 30 years, and features about a third of their collection of deleted 35mm footage and outtakes (all pristinely restored). This footage is included in the Swan Song Fiasco featurette, which looks at the changes that were made to the film following legal claims brought by Led Zeppelin’s manager over the use of the name Swan Records (which was changed to Death Records in the film).
Accompanying the release is the 2006 Paradise Regained featurette, a 2004 interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton (who finally answers fans queries about what happened to the Phantom’s costume), the late William Finley’s faux advertisement for a €300 Phantom action figure, and Randy Black’s backstage photographs.
But the star attraction, besides the gorgeous HD transfer, is the 72-minute interview between Paul Williams and Guillermo del Toro. Williams, who is back on top after scoring a Grammy for Daft Punk’s Random Memory Access album, talks candidly about how alcoholism turned him into a real-life Swan, while del Toro reveals how Phantom hugely influenced his life and art.
By far, this is the best Phantom release to date…
THE FULL SPECS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, available in the UK for the first time!
• Original uncompressed Stereo PCM / 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio options
• Isolated Music and Effects soundtrack
• Optional English SDH subtitles.
• Paradise Regained: A 50-minute documentary on the making of the film featuring director Brian De Palma, producer Ed Pressman, the late star William Finley, star and composer Paul Williams, co-stars Jessica Harper and Gerrit Graham.
• Guillermo Del Toro interviews Paul Williams (72 mins, 2014).
• The Swan Song Fiasco: A new featurette exploring the changes made to the film in post-production.
• 2004 interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton.
• The late William Finley on the €300 Phantom doll!
• Paradise Lost and Found: Alternate takes and bloopers from the cutting room floor, courtesy of Swan Archives.
• Original Trailers
• Radio Spots
• Gallery of rare stills including behind-the-scenes images by photographer Randy Black
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth and an exploration of the film’s troubled marketing history by Ari Kahan, curator of SwanArchives.org, illustrated with original stills and promotional material.
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress [Amaray release only].
• Limited Edition SteelBook featuring original artwork.
• Collector’s booklet.
Posted on February 21, 2014, in Cult classic, Horror, Must See, Must-See and tagged Arrow Video, Brian De Palma, Death Records, Faust, Gerrit Graham, Horror, Jessica Harper, Led Zeppelin, Must See, Paul Williams, Phantom of the Opera, Phantom of the Paradise, Rock opera, Swan Archives, The Abominable Dr Phibes, The Picture of Dorian Gray, William Finley. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.