Film Review: Phantom of the Paradise

Phantom of the Paradise

Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise gets a Blu-Ray release for the first time. The film is entertaining horror rock opera.

When music producer Swan hears the music of composer and singer Winslow Leach, he thinks it would be perfect to open his new concert hall ‘The Paradise’. Unbeknownst to Winslow, Swan has made a satanic pact and intends to steal the music…

1974’s Phantom of the Paradise is a lot of fun. The film combines overt references to Faust with aspects of The Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Gray. This gothic narrative is played out to a rock’n’roll soundtrack.

Brian De Palma’s film combines a musical with horror in Phantom of the Paradise. The high camp of the music, costumes and sets is an irrefutable product of the 1970s. The horror of film is never outwardly frightening. Instead, there is a malevolence that pervades the picture. This at times contrasts with the upbeat music and the camp aesthetic, generating a curious but appealing confection of the macabre and the jocose.

Phantom of the Paradise functions as a parody of the music industry, with the quest for fame, youth and success taken to extremes. Writer and director De Palma clearly has fun with this production. Some of the ostentatious stylings visible here recur in his later films. Events in the film veer between following the Faust narrative and complete unpredictability. Due to the fantastic nature, none of the occurrences are too out of place.

Paul Williams makes an interesting antagonist in that he seems out of place as Swan. There is less menace, given his satanic pact, but perhaps this is because De Palma wanted to eschew traditional roles with his parody. William Finley is decent as the tortured composer Leach.

Phantom of the Paradise is an enjoyable precursor to De Palma’s most famous works.  An entertaining slice of 1970s kitsch.

Phantom of the Paradise is available on Blu-Ray from 24th February 2014.