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George At 

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Phantom of the Paradise

I'm a huge Brian De Palma fan. Some of his films are on my all time favorites list. You experience his early use of classic split screens and love of bizarre characters in 1974's PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE.

Crazy, over-the-top and sometimes hilarious, its a 70's glam rock spin of "Phantom of the Opera".

When brilliant songwriter Winslow (De Palma favorite William Finley) crafts a near perfect rock opera about Faust, powerful music mogul Swan steals the music and sets off to stage it as his own.

With transparent references to artists signing a deal with the devil to get a record deal and the bastardization of music to hone it into bubble gum pop, it's well told but takes odd to a new level.

Paul Williams, an unexplainably huge star and great songwriter of the 70's, plays Swan. He's badly miscast but goes for it and really contributes to the film with his songs.

De Palma and Williams manage to take one great song and then show how a record company can squeeze/mangle and twist it into a country song, a ballad, a hard rock anthem and a 50's do-wop version, all staged on a grand scale.

With Williams as one lead and Finley as the other, its a battle of odd at the top. Jessica Harper (Susperia) is Phoenix to Swan as Christine was to our Opera Phantom.

She's pretty good, the lone main character that seems to be living in our world.

Gerrit Graham (Used Cars) damn near steals the movie as Beef, the hard rocker who Swan picks to open Faust on stage.

De Palma was playing with his biggest budget to date on this film, but it bombed badly in theatres, except for the coasts where it gained a "Rocky Horror"type following and France, where it ran for many years.

De Palma would move on to make Obsession and Carrie, breaking out with big hits post Phantom.

Sissy Spacek was famously fired from the film, on which she served as a set dresser. Daft Punk sites the film as one of their favorites and even had Paul Williams appear on their latest album in tribute.

Did I like this movie? Hmm. There were parts of it I laughed with and some musical performances, camp and gothic horror moments that were enjoyable, but overall it's strangely unaffecting as a whole.

It's interesting to see the early films of De Palma, before he really honed the unique visual style that would eventually make him one of my favorite directors.

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE gets an off key C-.

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