Phantom of the Paradise

1974 musical

Rating: 16/20

Plot: It's like a rock opera version of The Phantom of the Opera.

In what's turned out to be an unofficial personal Brian De Palma Film Fest, I somehow forgot that I had watched this vibrant, colorful, and just plain odd horror musical. I'm fairly positive this would have ended up being my favorite movie if I had seen it as a teenager.

The songs are a little dated but really enjoyable, the visuals are outstanding, and De Palma's style is fearless. Just note the scene on a stage that combines two of my favorites--split screen and the long take. It's feverish, an array of wild imagery, the kinds of ideas--like all the best ideas--that more than likely fueled by cocaine. De Palma out-Rocky-Horrors The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it's absolutely exhilarating.

At the same time, there's a heavy-handed satire about the music industry. It's the same fish-in-the-barrel jab that you've seen in countless other movies about the music industry, but here, the characters are such an exaggerated lot of villains, damsels, and tragic heroes, that you can't help love the thing. And in between the cracks of the big picture satire about a soul-sucking existence trying to make it big in the music business, there's more subtle pokes at music fandom and the fickle industry that caters to their needs.

Paul Williams, who plays the villain Swan, did the music for this, a genre-twisting score that has elements of glam rock, 50's rock, hard rock, and 70's singer/songwriter stuff, and it really is just about perfect. Swan makes a great bad guy, and I loved his glam rock creation Beef, probably because his name is Beef.

De Palma, like he always seems to do, pays homage to Hitchcock with a fun little spoof of Psycho's shower scene. This one involves a plunger.

This joins The Apple as cult rock operas that are much better than Rocky Horror.

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