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Phantom Of The Paradise (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

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    Ian Jane
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  • Phantom Of The Paradise (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 5th, 2014.
    Director: Brian De Palma
    Cast: Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, William Finlay
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Kind of a mix between The Phantom Of The Opera and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise is a quirky, fun, and ridiculously entertaining rock opera/musical with some interesting horror movie trappings. Admittedly very inspired by the 1925 Lon Chaney film, this 1974 feature (which was a fairly massive flop when it played theaters originally) has justifiably found a loyal cult following through the magic of home video. It appears now on Blu-ray in North for the first time following a French release from Opening Entertainment and a UK release from Arrow Video.

    The film follows a nerdy composer named Winslow Leach (William Finley) who has written a rock opera/cantata about Faust. This brings him to the attention of a slime-ball record executive named Swan (Paul Williams) who runs Death Records. Winslow is promised that his input will be welcome into just how Swan will produce this show and use it as the opening attraction for his new music venue, The Paradise, but not so surprisingly Winslow is brushed off and his work is stolen. When he sneaks into Swan's mansion where auditions are being held, he's kicked off the property, roughed up, and permanently deformed but not before meeting Phoenix (Jessica Harper), a woman he feels is perfect for his work and with whom he falls fast in love with. He's tossed into Sing Sing and his teeth are removed but after an escape, he heads straight to the Death Records building where his vandalism spree winds up with his face in a record pressing machine.

    Along with his looks, Winslow's psyche was also damaged and he understandably wants revenge against Swan. He puts on a silver mask, dons black tights and sneaks into the Paradise. Although Swan initially convinces him to work with him again, having him sign a devilish contract worthy of Faust himself, Winslow soon learns that an actor known as Beef (Gerrit Graham) is being cast in the lead against his wishes. Only Phoenix can sing his music, he tells Swan. Winslow realizes he's being used and decides to wreak havoc on anyone involved in this production while Swan, who has a sinister past of his own, continues to plan for opening night…

    Colorful, campy and just ultimately a lot of fun, Phantom Of The Paradise is filled with references to everything from Universal Horror films to Led Zepplin and back again, all shot with De Palma's keen eye for compositions (lots of his trademark split-screen effects) and knack for pacing. There's some interesting footage of the New York City of 1974 to give it that certain sort of atmosphere that only the city can provide, while the score (most of which comes from Williams himself) really does a fine job of complimenting and enhancing the narrative. On top of that, many of the numbers are quite catchy, from the opening fifties pop style track performed by Swan's band The Juicy Fruits through to Beef's glam rock take on Winslow's Faustian material.

    Finley makes for an excellent lead here, his bookwormish features and mannerisms make him easy to feel sympathy for, particularly when he's taken advantage of despite his genuinely good nature. We want him and Phoenix to get together in the end, particularly after the first time they meet when we hear them sing together. He's also incredibly animated here, leering through the eye holes in the mask with insanely expressive eyes and using body language to convey his anger. Finley's performance, and Harper's as well, contrasts brilliantly against Williams' sleazy record mogul. Played with a fair bit of exaggeration, he's the ultimate manipulator. Whether he's using his power to get sex or sitting arrogantly inside a giant gold record used as a desk he uses people over and over again and with no sense of remorse whatsoever. It all comes together underneath a brilliant rock n roll soundtrack and some absolutely gorgeous pop-infused visuals to create a film that is bit of a masterpiece, really.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Shout! Factory offers up Phantom Of The Paradise on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. While the color timing differs from the two previously mentioned European Blu-ray releases, the picture here seems to have more natural contrast and a noticeably cooler look to it. Detail is typically very strong and while some obvious film grain is apparent it's never overpowering nor is it distracting. Print damage is pretty much a non-issue and skin tones look lifelike and natural. The movie looks quite strong here, showing no obvious compression issues or edge enhancement and seemingly free of any heavy digital noise reduction or digital filtering quirks. All in all, it looks very good.

    Audio options are provided in English only in both DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 options with removable subtitles provided in English only. While the 2.0 track is fine, if you've got the speaker setup to take advantage of it the 5.1 mix really leaves it in the dust, particularly during the musical numbers. Dialogue is clean, clear and natural sounding and the levels are nicely balanced. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to note. Surround activity is impressive and there are a lot of fun directional effects used throughout the movie. Bass response is tight, strong and plenty powerful but never buries the performers. There's a lot to love here, the movie sounds fantastic.

    Shout! Factory has spread the extras for this release across the Blu-ray and DVD discs that make up this two disc set. The Blu-ray disc extras start off with a commentary track from cast members Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, and Harold Oblong - the guys who played The Juicy Fruits in the movie. It's a pretty busy track with the participants going back and forth and sharing various stories about their involvement in the production. There's a weird audio hiccup at about the seventy-minute mark where material repeats for some reason but that issue notwithstanding, this is an interesting mix of stories from the set and occasional technical insight. Harper was quite starstruck with Williams at the time and has some amusing anecdotes about that and also talks about working with Finley and De Palma, while the guys who played The Juicy Fruits talk about the various roles they popped up in here. Graham has some insight into the look of the movie and offers his take on the film's style and tone in addition to what it was like to play Beef. The disc also contains a second commentary, this one from Jack Fish who was the production designer on the movie. He clams up here and there but does a solid job of talking about what went into the design work that plays such an important role in the film. He also talks about working with the different cast and crew members and the film's director. Both tracks are worth listening to, they're pretty insightful.

    From there we move on to the interviews, starting with a thirty-three minute piece with De Palma entitled Backstage At The Paradise. He speaks in quite a bit of detail about what inspired him to make this movie, why he collaborated with the people he collaborated with on this project, the use of music in the movie and what his relationship with Finley, who he used in quite a few of his movies, was like. Soul Inspirations is a thirty-five minute interview with Paul Williams in which he talks about the different musical influence he worked into his music for the film, how Beef's performance sort of pre-dated a lot of the late seventies glam rock that would explode a few years later, fifties pop songs and how they work in the context of this movie and more. Behind The Mask is a five minute interview with Tom Burman, the special effects coordinator who was responsible for Winslow's now iconic mask among other details noticeable in the film.

    Rounding out the first disc are twenty-six minutes of alternate takes (in split screen comparing this material to what was seen in the finished version of the movie), a seven and a half minute long Swan Song featurette (containing the original shots contrasted with the optically altered shots added at the last minute to remove any reference to Led Zepplin's record label recently formed before this hit theaters!), a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection.

    Extras on the DVD disc start off with the featurette that was previously issued on the special edition French and UK releases, Paradise Regained (50:14). Featuring input from Brian De Palma, Paul Williams, William Finley, Gerrit Graham and Edward Pressman it is a pretty comprehensive look back at the making of the film with some great stories to be told. The documentary explores the origins of the project, what it was like casting and shooting the picture, and the reception that the film got when it was released to theaters back in the 1970s, which contrasts quite interestingly with its current cult status.

    The DVD also includes a selection of interviews carried over from the UK release starting with a seventy-two minute interview with Paul Williams conducted by Guillermo Del Toro. It covers much of the same ground as the interview on the Blu-ray disc but Del Toro seems to be having a really good time talking to Williams about his work here and the man's enthusiasm for the material is nothing short of infectious. A nine and half minute interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton reveals what it took to get the various costumes worn by the flamboyant characters featured in the movie just right while a twenty-minute interview with Edward Pressman, the film's producer, allows the man to discuss his working relationship with De Palma and about his thoughts on the movie itself. Drummer Gary Malaber talks about working with Paul Williams and about performing in the movie for seventeen minutes while John Alvin's widow spends eleven minutes talking about her late husband's poster design work.

    Rounding out the extras on the DVD disc is Phantom Of The Paradise Biography by Gerrit Graham (a ten minute piece in which the actor reads a piece he originally wrote for the film's theatrical press release), a thirty second spot with Finley playing with a Phantom Of The Paradise toy, a collection of radio and TV spots, a still gallery and a few theatrical trailers for the feature. Again, animated menus and chapter selection are included on this disc as well. Both discs fits inside a Blu-ray case and that case fits inside a cardboard slipcover. The insert cover art is reversible with the newly commissioned artwork on one side and the original poster design on the opposite side.

    The Final Word:

    Scream Factory have given Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise a release as gleefully excessive and over the top as the movie itself! This set is absolutely jammed with extras and it's about as comprehensive as anyone could ask for. Add to that a rock solid transfer and an excellent lossless surround sound mix and this one is pretty hard to resist.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






























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