Published Oct 04, 2019
Phantom of the Paradise (1974) is an amalgamation of rock, opera, horror and comedy, written and directed by Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill, Body Double, The Untouchables). The film follows Winslow Leach (William Finley), a composer who is approached by acclaimed and immortal record producer Swan (Paul Williams). Under the cleverly constructed ruse of producing Leach, Swan steals his original compositions to open his highly anticipated concert hall, the Paradise. In his quest to stop Swan, Leach is beaten, framed for drug dealing, sent to prison and injured in a freak accident that leaves him gruesomely disfigured. Laser-focused on getting revenge on those who have wronged him, Leach becomes the Phantom of the Paradise on a mission to terrorize Swan and his musicians. He will stop at nothing until he sees that Swan can never hurt him again.
The film pays homage to the 1943 film The Phantom of the Opera, based on the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. Phantom of the Paradise also pulls inspiration from several other horror classics like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust.
Along with its many classic pop culture references, Swan's record company Death Records was originally going to be called Swan Song Records, but De Palma didn't want to deal with the legal trouble they were getting from Led Zeppelin's label of the same name, so they opted to switch it out.
When Phantom of the Paradise originally premiered, it wasn't exactly a box office hit — except for in one particular Canadian city. The film was a smash success in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where it was kept in theatres for months after its initial release. Slowly gathering a devoted following over the years, the film remains a cult classic for many to this day.
At the heart of a film about a talented composer lies just that. The film's score was composed by one of the lead actors, Paul Williams. Williams also appears on Daft Punk's album Random Access Memories, and the French duo have proclaimed themselves fans of Phantom of the Paradise, even citing it as their favourite film in an interview with The New York Times.
Celebrate the return of this unique passion project to cinemas with Exclaim!'s Screenjams series: a celebration of music movies at Cineplex theatres.
Head to a Cineplex theatre near you to catch Phantom of the Paradise on October 25. For full details, visit www.cineplex.com/events.