Never thought I’d get to meet the devilNever thought I’d meet him face to face
Heard he always worked alone, that he seldom wrote or used a phone
So I walked right up to meet him at his place
Two years before unleashing Carrie on the world in 1976, Brian DePalma concocted the profoundly weird, unabashedly flamboyant horror-flick-meets-rock-opera romp Phantom of the Paradise — a brilliant film as gleefully deranged as it is slyly subversive and featuring myriad aesthetic wonders and narrative oddities…including — though hardly limited to! — a performance that provides the bridge between KISS and Dead-esque corpsepaint as well as a live “ritual” that out-Watains Watain…
Phantom tells the story of Winslow Leach, a young starry-eyed composer struggling to garner some attention for his cantata inspired by the life of Faust. (You see where this is heading…) Alas, Leach falls victim to flattery and does the one thing worse than selling his soul to the Devil — he signs an extremely lopsided recording contract with Swan, minion of Hell, CEO of Death Records, and proprietor of the soon-to-be-opened Paradise rock club.
Still, at first all Leach’s dreams appear to be coming true — his work is being produced, and he meets a sweet and alluring singer boasting a magnificent set of pipes who seems at least as interested in him as his work. But soon Leach finds himself on the outside looking in as Swan’s machine works to pervert his artistic vision and steal his lady. And when he tries to regain some semblance of control, Swan has him framed for smack and sent to Sing Sing where his teeth are replaced with metal in a pilot program designed to prevent gingivitis (!) Driven mad by a boy-ish band version of his song on the prison radio, Leach escapes prison and breaks into Death Records HQ. Unfortunately, a not-too-smooth attempt at sabotage gets poor Leach’s head cranked in a record press and, left for dead, the broken and disfigured man sneaks off to the Paradise where he plots his revenge as the Phantom.
The trailblazers over at Scream Factory were kind enough to send Decibel a copy of the upcoming Phantom of the Paradise deluxe reissue — out next week — and, lord, is it a thing of beauty! The high-def transfer of the film is gorgeous; the extensive interviews with DePalma, composer/star Paul Williams, and actress Jessica Harper (Suspiria), among many others, are entertaining and edifying; and the doc on the making of the film — “Paradise Regained” — is something else.
This classic is about to expand its cult, as well it should.
After the jump, a clip from the film via Scream Factory and the official trailer…