Phantom of the Paradise
|Phantom of the Paradise|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Edward R. Pressman|
|Written by||Brian De Palma|
|Narrated by||Rod Serling|
|Music by||Paul Williams|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||91 minutes|
Phantom of the Paradise is a 1974 American musical film written and directed by Brian De Palma. The story is a loosely adapted mixture of The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust, and also briefly references Frankenstein, Psycho and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Initially, it was a box office failure and was panned by some critics but has since acquired a cult following. Its music was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (April 2012)|
The story follows music composer/singer Winslow Leach, seen by satanic record producer Swan during his performance as a back-up to the nostalgia band The Juicy Fruits, which Swan produces. Swan believes Winslow's music perfect to open "The Paradise" – Swan's highly anticipated new concert hall – and has his right-hand man Arnold Philbin steal it. When Winslow arrives at Swan's Death Records, he is thrown out. He sneaks into Swan's private mansion, and observes several women rehearsing his music for an audition. One is Phoenix, an aspiring singer, whom Winslow deems perfect for his music and the two quickly fall for one another. Winslow realizes Swan's plan to open the Paradise with his music. Winslow sneaks in and Swan orders his minions to beat up Winslow and frame him for drug dealing.
Winslow is given a life sentence in Sing Sing Prison. Winslow's teeth are extracted and replaced with shiny metal ones as part of an experimental prisoner program funded by the Swan Foundation. Six months later, Winslow hears that The Juicy Fruits, whom he hates, have made an anticipated hit record of his music with Swan's backing. Winslow escapes prison in a delivery box and breaks into the Death Records building where he destroys a record press. A guard catches him, and the record press crushes and burns his face and destroys his vocal cords. With his severely mutilated, a disoriented Winslow sneaks into the Paradise costume department and dons a long, black cape and a silver, owl-like mask, becoming the Phantom of the Paradise. He then terrorizes Swan and his musicians and nearly kills The Beach Bums (formerly The Juicy Fruits).
The Phantom confronts Swan who recognizes him as Winslow. Swan offers the composer a chance to have his music produced his way. In a recording studio, Swan provides the Phantom with an electronic voice-box, enabling him to speak. Swan asks the Phantom to rewrite his cantata for Phoenix, who agrees if Phoenix is the lead singer and he signs a contract in blood. But the tapes plays Swan's voice as ragged. While the Phantom remains in the recording studio rewriting his cantata, Swan breaks the deal by telling Philbin that he resents Phoenix's "perfection" for the lead role.
The Phantom completes Faust, but Swan replaces Phoenix with a pill-popping male glam rock Prima donna named "Beef" in the lead of Winslow's Faust with Phoenix as backup singer. Swan steals the completed cantata and seals the Phantom inside the recording studio. The Phantom escapes and confronts Beef (a comic allusion to the shower scene in Psycho) and threatens to kill him if he performs. Beef tries to flee, but plays with the band The Undeads (formerly The Beach Bums), who resemble the somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. As Beef performs the completely rewritten glam-rock version of Winslow's "Old Souls", the Phantom, hidden in the rafters, strikes and electrocutes Beef (to the delight of the crowd). Horrified, Philbin orders Phoenix onstage and Phoenix is an immediate sensation.
Swan seduces Phoenix in her dressing room and promises her stardom. As she leaves, she is suddenly captured by the Phantom. On the roof, the Phantom tells Phoenix his true identity and implores her to leave the Paradise so Swan won't destroy her. Phoenix doesn't believe him and flees. At the Swanage, the Phantom observes Swan and Phoenix in a tight embrace. Heartbroken, he stabs himself through the heart with a knife. However, Swan tells the Phantom that he cannot die until Swan himself has died. The Phantom attempts to stab Swan, but Swan is unharmed.
Rolling Stone announces the wedding between Swan and Phoenix during Faust's finale. The Phantom learns that Swan made a pact with the devil over 20 years ago: Swan will remain youthful forever unless the videotaped recording of his contract is destroyed, and photos age and fester in his place (from Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray). The tape reveals footage of Winslow signing his contract with Swan and a new one Swan made with Phoenix. On a live TV camera, the Phantom realizes Swan is planning to have Phoenix assassinated during the ceremony. The Phantom destroys all the recordings and heads off to the wedding.
During the wedding, the Phantom stops the assassin from hitting Phoenix, who instead shoots and kills Philbin. The Phantom swings onto the stage and rips off Swan's mask, exposing him as a monster on live television. A crazed Swan gropes for Phoenix but the Phantom intervenes and stabs Swan repeatedly. In doing so, the Phantom's own stab wound reopens and he starts bleeding. As he is dying, Swan is carried around by the audience, who join in stabbing him. The dying Winslow removes his mask to reveal his own face and holds out a hand to Phoenix. Swan dies, allowing Winslow to die of his own wound. As Winslow collapses, Phoenix finally recognizes him as the kind man she met in line and embraces him in death.
- Paul Williams as Swan
- William Finley as Winslow Leach/The Phantom
- Paul Williams as The Phantom's singing voice
- Jessica Harper as Phoenix
- Gerrit Graham as Beef
- Raymond Louis Kennedy as Beef's singing voice
- George Memmoli as Philbin
- Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, and Harold Oblong as The Juicy Fruits / The Beach Bums / The Undeads
- Rod Serling (uncredited) as introductory voice
Musical numbers 
The film's soundtrack album features all songs excluding "Never Thought I'd Get to Meet the Devil". All words and music by Paul Williams.
- "Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye" – The Juicy Fruits
- "Faust" – Winslow
- "Never Thought I'd Get to Meet the Devil" – Winslow
- "Faust" (1st Reprise) – Winslow, Phoenix
- "Upholstery" – The Beach Bums
- "Special to Me" – Phoenix
- "Faust" (2nd Reprise) – The Phantom
- "The Phantom's Theme (Beauty and the Beast)" – The Phantom
- "Somebody Super Like You" (Beef construction song) – The Undeads
- "Life at Last" – Beef
- "Old Souls" – Phoenix
- "The Hell of It" (plays over end credits) – Swan
The record press in which Winslow character was disfigured was a real pressing plant (an injection-molding press at Pressman Toys). He was worried about whether the machine would be safe, and the crew assured that it was. The press was fitted with foam pads (which resemble the casting molds in the press), and there were chocks put in the center to stop it from closing completely. Unfortunately, the machine was powerful enough to crush the chocks and it gradually kept closing. Finley was pulled out in time to avoid injury.
The "electronic room" in which Winslow composes his cantata (and where Swan restores his voice) is in fact the real-life recording studio, The Record Plant. The walls covered with knobs are in reality an oversize custom-built electronic synthesizer dubbed TONTO, which still exists to this day.
Swan's record label in the film was originally to be called "Swan Song", but this was abandoned due to the existence of Led Zeppelin's label of the same name in real life. Swan's label in the film became Death Records. In the scene where Swan holds a press conference to introduce Beef, the Death Records logo is superimposed over a Swan Song sign on the speaker's podium. A sign featuring the original unedited Swan Song logo can be seen in several scenes from within the Paradise including a towel Beef is wearing when he is getting into the shower on opening night, the tape player Winslow/The Phantom uses to discover Swan's secret deal on the night of his wedding to Phoenix, and several brief shots of signs within The Paradise.
A novelization of the film was written by Bjarne Rostaing. Apparently based on an early draft of the screenplay, the novel excludes the supernatural angle of the film.
Phantom of the Paradise opened in the U.S. on October 31, 1974 and soon flopped. The film's only successful major market during its theatrical release was Winnipeg, Canada where it opened on Boxing Day, 1974 and played in local cinemas over four months continuously and over one year non-continuously until 1976. The soundtrack album sold 20,000 copies in Winnipeg alone and was certified Gold in Canada. It played occasionally in Winnipeg theatres in the 1990s and at the Winnipeg IMAX theatre in 2000 and always "drew a dedicated audience".
A fan-organized festival, dubbed "Phantompalooza", was held in 2005 in Winnipeg, where the fanbase took particularly strong root. That event featured appearances by Gerrit Graham and William Finley, in the same Winnipeg theatre where the film had its original run in 1975. A second "Phantompalooza" was staged April 28, 2006, reuniting many of the surviving cast members and featuring a concert by Paul Williams.
Musician Sébastien Tellier wrote about his song "Divine" on his album Sexuality: "This is my tribute to the Beach Boys and the Juicy Fruits (from the 1974 musical Phantom of the Paradise). It's about a time of innocence – when having fun was more important than picking up girls. I visualise a bunch of kids having fun on the beach and I'd really love to play with them."
Upon Finley's death in April 2012, Bret Easton Ellis wrote on Twitter: "RIP: Winslow Leach a.k.a. William Finley one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies: De Palma's The Phantom of the Paradise."
According to a Guardian interview with Daft Punk, "Hundreds of bands may tout cinematic references, yet few have them as hard-wired as Daft Punk. Guy-Man and Thomas met two decades ago this year, at the perfect cinema-going ages of 13 and 12... the one movie which they saw together more than 20 times was Phantom of the Paradise, Brian De Palma's 1974 rock musical, based loosely around Phantom of the Opera (both this and Electroma feature 'a hero with a black leather outfit and a helmet')."
- "PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 1978-08-09. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- Carlson, Doug. "Why Winnipeg?". p. 2. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- Carlson, Doug. "Why Winnipeg? The 1975 Phantom Phenomenon" www.phantomoftheparadise.ca. p. 1. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- Carlson, Doug. "Why Winnipeg?". p. 4. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners" www.oscars.org. "'Phantom of the Paradise' Song Score by Paul Williams; Adaptation Score by Paul Williams and George Aliceson Tipton". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "The 32nd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1974)". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- Carlson, Doug. "Why Winnipeg?". Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- "Sebastien Tellier--Sexuality". Recordmakers. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- "Bret Easton Ellis --April 19, 2012". Twitter. April 19, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- "Punk Fiction". The Guardian. Friday 13, July 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Phantom of the Paradise|
- Phantom of the Paradise at the Internet Movie Database
- Phantom of the Paradise at AllRovi
- Phantom of the Paradise at Rotten Tomatoes
- Detailed fansite: Swan Archives
- Detailed article: Why Winnipeg? The 1975 Phantom Phenomenon