Home > Horror >

Phantom of the Paradise

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

October. 31,1974
| Horror Comedy Music

An evil record tycoon is haunted and taunted by the disfigured composer Winslow Leach, whom he once wronged.


Watch Trailer


Similar titles



From the very first scene, this movie caught my attention. I knew from those first seconds of the film that it would be one of my favorite movies of all time. The sets, the music, the Phantom's costume, and PHOENIX! This movie was destined to be a cult classic from its release but sadly was unknown due to the huge popularity of The Rocky Horror Show. I would recommend this movie to those who love cult films but haven't heard of this one. This movie blew me away and so I believe that people like me will feel the same as well.


I really like almost every movie I've seen from Brian De Palma. I have not yet seen some films from the earliest phase of his career and I have only now seen this "phantom of the paradise" which is a very crazy and entertaining film constituting an intelligent satire to the music industry of the time. This type of films generally do not have an immediately positive reception of the public and the critic, but some become, over time, cult films, with legions of followers, as it is the case of this. See, for example, too, the case of "scott pilgrim vs. the world" by director Edgar Wright, 2010, whose humor bears quite a resemblance to this De Palma film. Also he had a cold reception initially, but with the passage of the years is more and more appreciated, being already considered by many also a cult film. Such films, different, of great creative freedom, and that satirized in an intelligent way many of the aspects of present-day society, so dormant and amorphous, are needed today.


When Brian DePalma shot "Phantom of the Paradise," the name of Swan's(Paul Williams) record label was "Swan Song." Signs with the record label name were everywhere, as much of the action takes place in Swan's theater, production office, and lair.Unfortunately, "Swan Song" was already in use - they were Led Zeppelin's label, among other bands. And thanks to an unfortunate coincidence between an event in the movie and the sad, shocking real-life death of Les Harvey, who had ties to Swan Song, the owner of the "real" label promised to sue the pants off Brian DePalma and the studio if they didn't change it.Problem is, Phantom of the Paradise was already in the can at this point, and in 1974, it was nearly impossible - and way too costly - to fix the signs in some moving shots. So any shot with "Swan Song" in it had to be carefully edited out, ruining several long tracking shots by DePalma. I bring this up because the only real flaw of Phantom of the Paradise, a goofy, strange, funny, satiric, unsettling, all-around wonderful midnight movie is the omission of these long, gorgeous shots, shots that remind you that DePalma is a visual artist who took this material very seriously. Fortunately, that's the only way stuff like this could possibly work. The story itself is a complex merger of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and Picture of Dorian Gray, with several other threads, twists, and homages thrown in for good measure, and it works because it has so much heart. Nobody ever winks to the audience, even when things get incredibly weird.This aesthetic can be seen in the wonderful, juicy lead performances that flirt with the top but never climb over. William Finley, as the hapless Winslow Leach, blends theatrical flourishes with operatic emotion to create an unforgettable Phantom. We're with him, all the way, even when he does some fairly unpleasant things. Paul Williams gives a "delicious" performance as Swan, the evil Phil Spector-like impresario - watch how he turns the tide on the Phantom in their first scene together, mesmerizing his attacker with the promise of employment (and a healthy assortment of drugs). Jessica Harper plays it completely straight as Phoenix, as she must - any unnecessary flourishes would have broken the spell. But best of all is Gerrit Graham, stealing every scene (as he would later in Used Cars) as Beef, the flaming, paranoid, diva-in-the-making, hand-picked by Swan to sing Winslow's music just to irritate him. No need to say another word about the plot. Sure, there are moments that could have been tweaked a bit - a revelation about Swan, based on an old photograph, would have a stronger impact if it opened the movie, rather than showing up in the third act. But the point is it HAS a plot, and a point. It's stunning, how thoroughly DePalma has seen this nonsense through, finding a line to the end that satisfies the romantic, operatic, classic horror movie, and even satiric setups. You'll want to stand up and cheer at the end. Then there's the music. If you only know Paul Williams for his emotional ballads - "Rainy Days and Mondays," "The Rainbow Connection," "I Won't Last a Day Without You" - you'll be surprised by the range he shows here. Sure, there are his trademark ballads, like the maybe-too-slow "Old Souls" and the song that first captures Swan's attention, the stunning "Faust." But there are also satirical throwbacks ("Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye," "Upholstery"), glam rockers ("Somebody Super Like You, Life at Last"), even country-rock ("Special to Me"), and they all matter. This isn't a characters- burst-into-song-and-dance kind of musical - the numbers are naturally woven into the story, into stage shows and auditions, into the heads of characters. But the music is crucial to the success of the film, and Williams nails it. The songs aren't quite as fun on their own, but it's still a kick to play the soundtrack and remember the scenes. "Rocky Horror" gets all the rock n' roll midnight-movie love. But great as "Rocky" is, "Phantom of the Paradise" is its superior in every way; it's funnier, more satisfying, a lot more moving. If you haven't seen it, get yourself a copy, wait until midnight, and fire away.


I love this movie, and is probably my favorite Brian De Palma film. It is excellently written, it has memorable characters, and of course, great music. The plot follows record label owner Swan (Paul Williams), as he searches for musicians to play at the opening night of his rock palace, The Paradise. He hears a song from Winslow Leech (William Finnley), and decides not to politely ask him to play, but steals his cantata, and sell it to female singer. At Swan's palace, he meets Phoenix (Jessica Harper), who is auditioning to perform. He is then caught by Swan's security guards, and after a series of events, he gets his face morbidly deformed with a record press. He attempts to attack the paradise, by putting bombs in cars and electrocuting musicians, but I won't give too much away. 10/10.