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title One of the Two Films by the Director That Are Worth Watching
Phantom of the Paradise
Dir: Brian DePalma;
with Paul Williams, Jessica Harper
Wonderful black comedy.

Casting Paul Williams as the evil producer, Swan, was a brilliant stroke; watching chubby, cute Paul Williams menacing and terrorising the six-foot, leather-clad Phantom is almost worth the cost of admission by itself. (A similar touch is used in Altman's The Long Goodbye, in which the minuscule Henry Gibson terrorises six-foot-plus Sterling Hayden.)

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this film is the way in which it predicts some of the future trends in the industry, to the extent that what was considered over the top at the film's initial release is seen as rather quaint and tame, looking back from the vantage point of today.

Crossing the Phantom of the Opera with Faust and giving the result a rock'n'roll setting was a brilliant idea; but it would have been a total and complete flop without the soundtrack contributed by Williams, in his other guise as composer. Perhaps the best part of the music is the horrible ways in which the actually rather pretty "Faust" Cantata is degraded and twisted, while still remaining (barely) recognisable.

And the end-title theme ("The Hell of It") is a wonderfully cheerful meditation on the well-deserved damnation of a major character, with an infectious ricky-tick piano chorus.

William Finley, as Winslow Leech/The Phantom, manages to actually (mostly) convince us that he is feeling what the script says he is, which, given the absurdity of the script, is a pretty good accomplishment. Paul Williams, as Swan, is so wonderfully slimy and egotistical  [note] in such a cheerful evil-little-boy manner that you almost want to take him home and put him on a shelf somewhere. Jessica Harper, as Phoenix [another note] is sufficient unto the part.

The songs are all well-performed and produced, the production values are good, and it's a lot of fun to watch.

(Watch out for Yet Another Psycho Homage...)

(The other dePalma film worth watching, incidentally, is "The Untouchables", if only to compare it to "Once Upon a Time in America" and see how thoroughly and perfectly he imitated the style and techniques of Sergio Leone)

Note 1: Notice that, when he electronically gives the Phantom a voice to replace his own ruined one, it's his (Swan's) own voice, rather than Winslow's original voice) {return to whence you came}

Note 2: There're a lot of birds in this film -- notice that the Phantom's mask is a stylised owl... {return to whence you came}