Friday, October 24, 2008

Phantom of the Paradise

This may not be the creepfest some might be expecting from the homercat, but this is a lost classic from the 70's that I thought should be resurrected here. Nothing creepy here in the music, yet as in the original phantom, this is a sad tale. After all these years and before I thought to bring it here. Initial memories of the film are of Beef and his back-up act to the no-talent band The Juicy Fruits. Upon older person reflection, it is quite a sad story with a pretty decent 70's soundtrack before movie soundtracks were a staple of a film's success.

Phantom of the Paradise is a 1974 horror-thriller musical film written and directed by Brian De Palma. The story is a loosely adapted mixture of Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust. The film was marketed with the tagline "He sold his soul for rock n'roll", and then with "He's been maimed and framed, beaten, robbed and mutilated. But they still can't keep him from the woman he loves." Initially a box office failure and panned by some critics, it has since gained a huge cult following. The film was a box-office bomb the year of its initial showings. Curiously, the film's major market during its theatrical release was in Winnipeg, Canada where it stayed in local cinemas over four months continuously and over one year non-continuously until 1976. Relatedly, the soundtrack sold 20,000 copies in Winnipeg alone, and it got Gold status in Canada. (Yay! Canada)The film was later shown on area IMAX screens in the 90s. A 2006 fan-organized festival, dubbed 'Phantompalooza', reunited the original cast and featured a concert by Paul Williams in the very theatre where the film played during its original run.

It is quite the tragedy/musical/horror flick and the ending is enough to make a macho red neck cry. In fact, I forget how damn depressing this movie was. No it's not a "great" movie, but it is a lost classic in my opinion. Will the songs make you shiver with fear? Not likely, but they are a tribute to a genre I adore, the really bad b movie horror flick. This is a rare one folks. Get these and be the envy of all your nerd sci fi friends at the next comic con. (See story line after funny toon)

Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye
Life at Last
Classic Horror Flick

Funny Toon

The story follows a music composer and singer named Winslow Leach (played by William Finley), who works as a back-up act to the no-talent nostalgia band The Juicy Fruits, who are produced by Satanic record producer, 'Swan' (played by Paul Williams). Swan is deeply moved by Winslow's pop cantata, based on the story of "Faust" and, deeming Winslow's music as the perfect music to open ""The Paradise" - Swan's anticipated concert hall, has his right-hand man Philbin (George Memmoli) steal it.

When Winslow arrives at Swan's record label, Death Records, he is thrown out. When he sneaks into "Swanage", Swan's private mansion, to find out what's going on, he observes several women all singing his music. Winslow meets Phoenix, an aspiring singer (played by Jessica Harper), whom he deems perfect for his music, and the two quickly fall for one another. Winslow is told of Swan's plan to open the Paradise with Winslow's music. Thrown out again, when Winslow sneaks in once more, Swan orders his minions to beat up Winslow and frame him for drug dealing.

Winslow is given a life sentence in Sing-Sing Prison. In prison, Winslow's teeth are extracted due to an experimental prisioner program, funded by the Swan Foundation. His teeth are now replaced with shiny metal ones. Six months later, when Winslow hears on the radio, while assembling tiddleywinks games in the prison rehab center, that The Juicy Fruits, who he hates, have made an anticipated hit record of his music, with Swan's backing. Winslow goes berserk, punches out a guard, and escapes from prison in a delivery box driven off prison property. He breaks into the Death Records building and tears the place up. He then breaks into Swan's record factory, where he sets out to destroy a record press. When a guard catches him fiddling with the record press, Winslow slips and the record press catches his sleeve, tumbling Winslow head first into the record press, crushing his face. Bleeding profusely, and with his face now mutilated, a very disoriented Winslow makes his way to the edge of the East River and tumbles into the water. The newspaper reports that he was shot by a security guard at the factory and is now dead.

Sneaking backstage into the Paradise, Winslow makes his way into the costume department, where he dons a black leather costume, a long, black cape (though later in the film he also wears a red one) and a silver, owl-like mask to cover his now scarred face, becoming The Phantom of the Paradise so he can terrorize Swan and his musicians. He plants a time bomb into a prop car, nearly killing the Juicy Fruits. Swan, seeing the Phantom on a security camera, realizes there is an intruder about.

The Phantom confronts Swan, who recognizes him as Winslow. Swan offers the composer the chance to have his music produced his way. Auditions are held, and the Phantom selects Phoenix. Later, in a secluded recording studio, Swan provides the Phantom with an electronic voice-box, enabling him to speak and sing (voice of Paul Williams). Swan asks the Phantom to rewrite his cantata for Phoenix. The Phantom reluctantly agrees, on the condition that Phoenix is the lead singer, and that Swan plays "what I write!". Swan promises, and the Phantom signs a contract in blood.

While the Phantom remains in the recording studio rewriting his cantata, Swan breaks the deal, telling Philbin that he resents Phoenix's "perfection": "You know how I abhor perfection in anyone but myself." Swan puts a pill-popping, gay male glam-rock prima donna named Beef (Gerrit Graham) in the lead of Winslow's "Faust", with Phoenix as a backup singer.

The Phantom completes "Faust". Swan then drugs him and steals the cantata, ordering his minions to seal the Phantom up inside the recording studio with a brick wall. However, when the Phantom awakens and realizes he's been betrayed, he manages to escape. The Phantom then confronts Beef, threatening to kill him if he performs. Beef tries to flee, but is stopped by Philbin, who suggests to Beef that it was all a drug-induced hallucination.

Onstage, the glam-rock band The Undeads (the former Juicy Fruits) sing of the perfect man, taking numerous body parts and "turning" them into Beef, dressed as a glitter-clad Frankenstein's Monster. As Beef performs, the Phantom, up in the rafters, strikes Beef with a lightning bolt-shaped neon sign, electrocuting him, to the great delight of the crowd. Horrified, Philbin orders Phoenix onstage as a replacement. Phoenix is an immediate sensation with the audience. Swan now realizes the potential of the situation.

In Phoenix's dressing room, Swan arrives and seduces Phoenix, telling her of her future stardom. As she leaves, she is nearly overwhelmed by the overzealous crowd, but is quickly carted away by the Phantom. On the roof, the Phantom tells Phoenix his true identity. He implores Phoenix to leave the Paradise so Swan won't destroy her like he's destroyed everything else. Phoenix doesn't believe him, however, and, afraid of the Phantom, flees.

At Swanage, Swan's private mansion, the Phantom, watching atop the roof, observes Swan and Phoenix locked in a tight embrace. Heartbroken, he commits suicide, stabbing himself through the heart with his own knife.

The Phantom awakens from death, however, to see Swan (who'd set up the entire "embrace" for Winslow's benefit) standing over him. Swan tells the Phantom that he cannot die because he is locked to the blood contract he'd signed earlier: The Phantom can't die until Swan himself has died. With that knowledge, the Phantom attempts to stab Swan through the heart, but Swan, unharmed, merely pulls the knife away and replies, "I'm under contract, too!"

Rolling Stone Magazine announces the upcoming wedding between Swan and Phoenix during Faust's finale. While everyone prepares, the Phantom sneaks into Swan's private taping room to watch the tape containing the blood contract. Watching the tape, the Phantom then learns that Swan made a pact with the devil years ago: Swan will remain youthful forever, unless the videotaped recording of his contract is destroyed. In turn, the tape reveals Winslow's contract with Swan, and a secret one Swan made with Phoenix when she was drugged. On a live security camera, the Phantom learns that Swan plans on having Phoenix assassinated, observing the hit man on the monitor. The Phantom destroys all the recordings, setting them on fire, and then heads off to the wedding between Phoenix and Swan.

The story ends with the Faust finale. Onstage, the wedding is in full swing. The Phantom manages to stop the assassin's bullet from hitting Phoenix, which ends up killing Philbin, who was officiating at the wedding. The Phantom swings down onto the stage and rips off Swan's mask, exposing Swan as a monster on live television. Swan's face is now hideous; melting due to the tapes being destroyed (burning, appropriately enough) and the deal between him and Satan being terminated. Realizing what's happening, Swan tries to strangle Phoenix, but the Phantom intervenes and stabs Swan through the heart. The moment he does, however, his own fatal wound opens, as he is now free of the contract. Swan, as he is dying, is carried around by the audience, who are excited to the point of hysteria, and Winslow, dying, removes his own mask, revealing his own disfigurement. Dying, and cheered on by the crowd, Winslow crawls on the floor towards Phoenix, who is in shock. Swan dies and so does Winslow, just as he holds out a hand to Phoenix. Phoenix finally recognizes the Phantom as Winslow. As Winslow collapses, the crying Phoenix rushes over to him and lays down next to him, heartbroken, and the film ends.

Homercat cries every time.