Cult Corner: Phantom of the Paradise

What do you get when you combine Faust, The Rocky Horror Picture show, 1950’s sci-fi movies and a kaleidoscope?  You get Phantom of the Paradise, Brian De Palma’s super groovy reimagining of the famous Phantom of the Opera. Made a couple years before De Palma’s infamous Carrie, Phantom of the Paradise is a fun, over the top, rock opera with some horror elements thrown in for good measure.  It was a certified box office flop when it was first released (except for some inexplicable reason it did spectacular in Winnipeg, Canada) but later gathered a cult following.

This movie was made in the early 1970’s and it definitely shows—there is judicious use of psychedelic, over saturated colors, crazy camera angles and split screens. The redesigned Phantom looks awesome--he wears a black leather outfit with a silver robotic helmet. There is a glam rock vibe going on and glitter finds its way into almost every scene. The musical numbers are great, and the composer for the film was even nominated for an Oscar. 

There are some great scenes involving the Phantom and if you are a fan of the original then you will probably enjoy this version.  The infamous scene where the Phantom is playing his organ in utter despair is remade in an incredibly cool way. It’s one of the most ingenious things I have ever seen.  If you don’t have a high tolerance for hijinks and cheesy performances you might want to skip this movie, there are even sped up parts a la Benny Hill.

Brian De Palma definitely has a colorful and varied filmography and if you only know him from his gangster movies such as Scarface or The Untouchables you might be left scratching your head after watching Phantom of the Paradise.  However, if you like far out rock operas, you are definitely in the right place, man.

-Review by Michelle Kisner