Saturday, August 2, 2014

REVIEW: Phantom of the Paradise (Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD) - Blu-ray at Last, Sit and Listen While the Screams Begin

DePalma fans love their Carrie and Sisters and Dressed to Kill. They love Raising Cain.  They love Scarface and Carlito's Way, but in 1974 it was Phantom of the Paradise. While it never really achieved any popularity (save for an anomaly in Winnipeg) during its initial run, it's gradually built a respectable cult following. That is purely unacceptable. Phantom of the Paradise deserves better; more followers and more respect. Scream Factory has brought it to the table for consideration in a Collector's Edition with so many extras it could take you several evenings to get through it all. This is your time to become a better horror fan and to see just how a horror musical is done. 

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Phantom of the Paradise is the Faustian tale of  Swan, (Paul Williams, who also wrote the acclaimed score) an evil record tycoon who is tormented by the disfigured composer Winslow Leach (William Finley, Sisters) he once wronged. 

The first time I saw Phantom of the Paradise was at Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon. Exhumed Films always gives hints in their programs to the big show, never announcing their lineup but rather allowing the audience to guess based on vague hints. As I recall, the hint for that would be Phantom was, “The movie that the Rocky Horror Picture Show wishes it could be”.  At the time I was unfamiliar with Phantom save for a picture feature in An Album of Modern Horror I had read growing up, so I didn’t even try to guess Phantom of the Paradise. It simply wouldn’t have occurred to me. By the time this mystery time slot marched in the all night horrorthon lineup, it was rather late in the evening and I had fallen asleep just before the credits started to roll. When I awoke up in the middle of the movie, I had no idea what I was watching, but I loved it. The music was a little bit Beach Boy, a little glam and for the most part either a tribute or criticism of 70’s popular rock (I couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be a parody or serious rock opera at the time). In Winslow’s modified look all I could see was the future; this seemed to be identical to some of the styles worn by Marilyn Manson starting around Coma White. I remembered Paul Williams’ voice. Not from any musical number, but from Oliver Stone’s The Doors as a friend and guest to Andy Warhol at a party. Of course I knew Jessica Harper from Suspiria, but Suspiria wasn’t even a glimmer in Argento’s eye when DePalma made Phantom.

From that moment forward I was a fan. I loved each and every song and picked up the soundtrack to listen to as I would drive to work. I came up with at least one musical based adaptation of the movie to be featured on stage with live performances. Live band. Hey, a guy can dream. I’ll have you know that if you are unfamiliar with Phantom’s  soundtrack it is beyond catchy. You’ll be singing “Life at Last” and “Somebody Super Like You” in no time at all. They’ll get stuck in your head as perfect ear worms often do. One problem, I didn’t own the movie to enjoy it over and over again; just the soundtrack. I imagined like most of its supporters that it would see a Blu-ray release and waited and waited. Arrow Video put it out in Europe which is great for the region free crowd, but what about America at large? To build the cult a proper region A would need to come out. Then Scream Factory announced they’d be releasing it and I knew a new crop of Juicy Fruits was just around the corner.  I expected a release. I did not expect a robust package filled with an instant fan media roll. Shame on me for doubting Scream.

The Scream Factory release is absolutely packed. So packed that the extra features had to be divided between the Blu-ray and DVD. Yes this is a Hi-Def transfer and it looks beautiful. If you hear otherwise I would like a full list of the issues so I can throw them just over your head and show you the gorgeous opening sequence complete with credits that will jump off the goddamn screen at you as if they were processed in 3-D. There’s a commentary built for fans featuring Harper, Gerrit Graham, Archie Hahn, Peter Elbling and Jeffrey Comanor. No disrespect to Brian DePalma who I really love as a filmmaker but his voice actually lulls me to sleep anyway as I found out in the new interview with him which is absolutely fascinating but his speech pattern and cadence made me doze for a second. The Paul Williams interview is thoughtful and full of incite as to his previous work and his involvement with the film as a composer and actor. The Make-up artist Tom Burman also gets some interview time as does Edward Pressman, costume designer Rosanna Norton,  and drummer Gary Mallaber. There’s a complete making of featurette called Paradise Regained (I kept thinking that would be the name of the making of feature on a sequel to Behind the Make). In addition to the new interview with Williams there’s also a Guillermo Del Toro moderated interview with him. Sure you get the alternative takes reel, still gallery, trailers and radio spots, but the coolest extra is the Swan Song outtake footage. Original the label owned by our villain Swan was supposed to be called Swan Song and not Death Records. Enter Led Zeppelin and their actual record label Swan Song and a threatened law suit that would inspire an necessary name change. This feature shows you scenes before and after the change from Swan Song to Death Records. I prefer Death Records anyway. This feature is a must watch for fans. The newly commissioned cover art by Justin Osbourn is the perfect encapsulation of everything horrifying and musical about this picture. The reverse is more traditional Phantom art.

Note: 1080p HD, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on the Blu and standard def. and Dolby Digital Stereo/Mono on the DVD.

Full List of Bonus features:

  • NEW Audio Commentary with Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and the Juicy Fruits (Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Harold Oblong aka Peter Eibling)
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Production Designer Jack Fisk
  • NEW Interview with director Brian DePalma (36 minutes)
  • NEW Interview with Paul Williams talking about the music of PHANTOM (30 minutes)
  • NEW Interview with Make-up Effects wizard Tom Burman discussing the Phantom Helmet
  • Alternate Takes (40 minutes)
  • Swan Song Outtake Footage (10 minutes) 
  • Paradise Regained – documentary on the making of the film featuring director Brian DePalma, Producer Edward R. Pressman, William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and more… (50 minutes)
  • Interview with Paul Williams moderated by Guillermo Del Toro (72 minutes)
  • Interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton (10 minutes)
  • NEW Interview with producer Edward R. Pressman (15 minutes)
  • NEW Interview with drummer Gary Mallaber (15 minutes)
  • NEW Alvin’s Art and Technique – a look at the neon poster (15 minutes)
  • NEW Phantom of the Paradise Biography by Gerrit Graham - 1974 Publicity Sheet written by and read by Graham (8 minutes)
  • Radio Spots
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery 
Scream Factory has given fans of Phantom of the Paradise a chance to come closer to Death Records and Swan than ever before. You get inside both villain and anti-hero in a strange Faustian tale that features perfect revenge, love lost, rediscovered and hearts broken… oh and some damn fine music. Grab the Scream Factory disc, pop it in and come up with your own adlibs including throwing Juicy Fruits at the screen, dressing up as your favorite character (plenty of black lip stick required) and make sure to eat plenty of BEEF when Gerrit Graham shows you how Life at Last goes. Rocky Horror truly wishes it was Phantom of the Paradise. Create the cult of Winslow and try to get your own midnight screening. SWAN!

Order it up now. Sing along forever! The Phantom is YOU! You sold your soul for Rock N’ Roll and didn’t get a receipt? Better call Scream Factory.

1 comment:

  1. love paul williams for the past 45 years im 52 since planet of the apes hawii 5 0 and the phantom and on and on