How exciting these satanic '70s. This magical time when reality and fantasy are so cleverly disguised by the media masters. Full color shoot outs nightly on all channels. In the movies. In the news. Fact or fiction? Check your local TV listings if you're left confused.
Here at The Paradise we offer you a special blend off ends and fact. Atrocity and art. Music and murder twice nightly. And is the horror you witness mere theatrics, or is it real? The only way to be sure...is to participate.
At The Paradise our performers are contracted to entertain you at any cost! And entertain you they will. Trust me... SWAN
This week's movie of the week is, The Phantom of the Paradise.
Describing Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise as an update of the classic Phantom of the Opera doesn't do justice to this demented movie. While De Palma's Hitchcock homages have sometimes led him into dead ends, this rock & roll remake
seems to have liberated De Palma's imagination, and the result is weird and funny, with the scruffy underground spirit of the director's early pictures. The Phantom is one Winslow Leach (William Finley), a nerdy songwriter whose "pop cantata" on the subject of Faust is stolen by a freakish, Phil Spector-like rock impresario called Swan (Paul Williams). After getting his head caught in a vinyl-LP compressor, Leach is transformed into a masked creature, haunting Swan's music palace, the Paradise. De Palma proves how nimbly he can establish narrative rhythm: the story moves like a cannon shot, and the musical numbers (especially in the Alice Cooper-like Paradise sequences) are brilliantly cut. The movie seems to predict the Studio 54 scene, MTV, and punk rock--the last, especially, in the figure of Beef, a screeching singer played by the unhinged Gerrit Graham. The songs were written by Paul Williams, that diminutive '70s music icon (he cowrote the Barbra Streisand wet noodle "Evergreen"), and his performance is a reminder of his peculiar, self-spoofing presence: at one point, the preening Swan announces, "You know how I abhor perfection in anyone but myself." Comedy, musical, horror film, '70s artifact--this movie isn't quite definable, and that's what's wonderful about it. --Robert Horton
Watch Beef Sing (sorry the sound isn't great)
Sissy Spacek is credited as "set dresser" for this film. As she was already an established actor when this film was made, one can assume that she took the job to assist her boyfriend, Jack Fisk, who was the film's production designer.
According to William Finley, the record press in which his Winslow character was disfigured was a real pressing plant (it was an injection-molding press at an Ideal Toy Co. plant). 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 that it gradually kept closing. It was Finley's speed and timing that saved him from truly being hurt, as he got his head out just in time. Incidentally, his scream in the scene was real.
Gerrit Graham has talked about the infamous "musical chairs" casting, where William Finley almost wound up with no part to play. The studio considered casting Paul Williams as Winslow, Graham as Swan and Peter Boyle as Beef. Williams turned down the role of Winslow not only because he didn't feel physically fit or menacing for the role, but he didn't want to use the role of Winslow as a message against the recording industry. Somehow, Boyle was unavailable, Graham took the Beef role, and Finley ultimately took the Winslow role. In fact, director Brian De Palma actually wrote the part with his colleague Finley in mind. William Finley said in a recent interview that Jon Voight was at one time considered for the role of Swan.
The single-edit, "time bomb in the car trunk" sequence is an homage to Orson Welles' famous opening for Touch of Evil (1958).
Winslow Sings Faust:
Beef: Can't you feel the vibes in your own house, man? Bad, sport, real bad. The karma in here is so thick, you need an aqualung to breathe.
Swan: [holding a contract] It's all here. Read it carefully, then sign at the bottom in blood. Messy, I know, but it's the only way to bind. Tradition. Ink isn't worth anything to me, Winslow.
Beef: You trying to tell me you didn't hear that shriek? That was something trying to get out of its premature grave, and I don't want to be here when it does.
My Phantom of the Paradise Wallpaper:
Four outta four, anyone who loves Rocky Horror will love this movie.