In what can only be likened to the tortured love-child of Phantom of the Opera and Faust, Phantom of the Paradise surprises with a shockingly good score and a rich, fun world.
A starving artist, Winslow (Bill Finely), catches wind that his pop cantata about a disfigured musician searching for love has been stolen by a local music tycoon named Swan (Paul Williams) in order to open his new, world-class music venue, The Paradise. After confronting Swan, Winslow is framed for selling drugs and is sent to the notorious Sing Sing prison. During his stint in prison, Winslow’s teeth are removed, to prevent infection, and replaced with two rows of striking, silver implants.
Being forced to listen to canned, radio-versions of his music, Winslow breaks free and attempts to destroy Swan’s record company, Death Records. In a freak accident, his face is horribly mutilated by a vinyl press and he disappears.
At The Paradise, it becomes clear that Winslow, now the Phantom, is attempting to prevent his music from being destroyed by Swan. After a brief altercation, the Phantom signs a contract with Swan to finish his work and help launch The Paradise.
When auditions are held for the cantata, Phoenix (Jessica Harper), a young woman with a marvelous voice, is cast in a titular role since Winslow believes she’s the only one that should sing it. Swan also abuses this conceit later as he replaces her with Beef (Gerrit Graham), a glam-rock superstar with a deep, gruff growl.
Pushed to the end of his rope, the Phantom destroys the venue and ruins The Paradise’s opening, voiding his contract with Swan and killing them both.
Unlike a film of a similar vein that was released at around the same time, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Phantom of the Paradise digs a bit deeper and comes out on top as a more complete film. By taking a closer look at what it truly means to love and sacrifices that must be made in the face of danger, the film actually has something to say.
The movie is just flat-out entertaining. With such a small budget, it’s a wonder that such a memorable world could be created at this time. Every performance is rock solid, from top to bottom, and the entire album should be saved on your Spotify account immediately.
Matt's rating: 4.5/5 Gabe's rating: 3.5/5 Roy's rating: 5/5 Rewind Cinema composite: 13/15