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Phantom of the Paradise

For anyone who feels Brian DePalma's directorial style is often overblown and overheated, his 1974 Phantom of the Paradise is just silly enough to make his worst habits work. William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a gawky, goofy, geeky composer whose Meat Loaf-like take on the legend of Faust is hijacked by an ageless megaproducer, Swan (the diminutive Paul Williams, who also wrote the film's music), who's made a Faustian pact of his own. Dejected and disfigured, Leach returns to haunt the opening of Swan's new music hall, but Phantom of the Opera isn't the only classic regurgitated by DePalma's rough-but-lively, colorful and creative slapdash of ideas. The film also contains slight send-ups of Psycho and The Godfather, not to mention predating an idea or two from 1976's Network, while also providing a more coherent alternative to the glam camp of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While Phantom is certainly sloppy in parts, there's a lot of fun to be had puzzling over the inspired casting of pint-sized, pug-faced Williams as a devilish lothario, and in Gerrit Graham's vivacious performance as the androgynous singer Beef. Also starring Jessica Harper as Leach's muse, Phoenix. Fox's Phantom of the Paradise DVD presents the film in a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a source print with little wear; audio comes in a fine Dolby 2.0 Surround. Trailers, including one for Rocky Horror. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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