Phantom of the Paradise

Starring: Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, William Finley & George Memmoli
20th Century Fox

RRP: £15.99

Certificate: 15
Available now

Swan (Paul Williams) is a universally successful musician and promoter, ever on the lookout for new acts to extend his fame. When he steals Winslow's opus (based on Dante's travels) and gives the work to another act, the budding composer is understandably angry and seeks retribution. An accident in a record press results in a cross between Mad Max and The Rocketeer on speed. When the Phantom Winslow is double-crossed a second time he creates havoc at the newly opened Paradise in his attempt to kill Swan and save an innocent female singer from his clutches. But Swan is in league with the devil, and Winslow's fate is tied-up in the same contract...

As you might have already guessed from the title and opening paragraph Phantom of the Paradise is a purposeful reworking of the horror classic The Phantom of the Opera. It was written and directed by Brian De Palma, whose projects are nothing if not diverse. That might be one reason why this film is difficult to properly classify. Like John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China the plot straddles a handful of genres; in this case, musical, horror, comedy and slapstick. In fact, at times the feel and movement is reminiscent of The Keystone Cops. Essentially, it falls more firmly into the former category.

Released in 1974, Phantom has been described as a send-up of the glam rock era, but more accurately parodies progressive rock. The idea of a musical opus relating Dante's journey in the underworld would not have been out of place in this period. For example, Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth concept album was released the same year and did well in the music charts.

The music itself ranges from the entertaining to the annoying. Whether this was intentional is debatable, but overall it's pretty good. However, the whole package is so strange and off-kilter It would undoubtedly be better enjoyed with company after a few beers. The manic pace certainly wouldn't stand repeated viewings. In my humble opinion The Rocky Horror Picture Show did this so much better, whilst knowing exactly what it wanted to achieve.

This is not a bad film, but it's close.

Ty Power

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