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Director Brian DePalma has a reputation for creating films that are derivative of other films- in particular the works of Alfred Hitchcock. However, before DePalma became most deeply entrenched in his Hitchcock period, he created a wonderful cult horror/musical that playfully combines elements from The Phantom Of The Opera, Faust and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. DePalma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE ($20) mish-mashes the elements of these horrifying literary works into the world of early 70’s rock music to create a truly unique motion picture experience. PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is a wonderfully over-the-top extravaganza of visual style and editing panache that flashes the name "Brian DePalma" in big, bright neon lights.

The plot of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE concerns a composer named Winslow Leach (William Finley), who creates a rock cantata based upon Faust. Paul Williams portrays Swan, the ageless rock impresario who steals Winslow’s masterpiece and claims it for his own. When Winslow protests, Swan has him framed for a crime and sent off to prison. Eventually Winslow escapes and tries to sabotage the recording of his stolen work. Unfortunately, Winslow gets his head stuck in a record press and ends up horribly disfigured. Hiding his face behind a mask, Winslow becomes "The Phantom" of the rock palace known as The Paradise, where he plots against Swan and tries to further the career of Phoenix (Jessica Harper)- the beautiful singer who has captured his heart. The cast of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE also features George Memmoli, Harold Oblong, Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Commanor and Gerrit Graham in a hilarious turn as a glam rocker named Beef.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Fox has produced a great looking presentation of a film that is a couple years shy of its thirtieth anniversary. The image on the DVD is clean, sharp and nicely defined. As for the film element, it too looks great- displaying very few age related blemishes and little of the appreciable grain that marred most previous video incarnations of the film. Colors are strongly rendered, without the fuzziness that sometimes appears in films from the mid-seventies. Additionally, flesh tones appear fairly natural. Blacks are accurately rendered and the picture produces a good level of depth and shadow detail. The dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts well hidden.

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is presented on DVD with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack. The sound is good, but not great, with the limitations in the original recordings remaining evident. There are some frequency limitations at the low and high ends, making much of the track sound like mid-fi instead of hi-fi. Whatever stereo separation there is in the soundtrack is confined to the musical portion. Dialogue is crisp and always completely understandable. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer and five bonus trailers.

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is a cult classic is as much fun now, as it was the first time I saw it. Fox has provided the film with a great looking transfer, making the DVD something that fans will want to own.


Phantom of the Paradise


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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