Blu-ray Review “Phantom of the Paradise”

phantom-paradiseStarring: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Robin Mattson
Director: Brian De Palma
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Run Time: 92 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

When I first discovered “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the early 90’s, I set out to find what else was like that film. In my searching I came across the 1974 cult classic “Phantom of the Paradise”, which is Brian de Palma’s take on “The Phantom of the Opera” mashed-up with “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Faust”. All of the film’s songs were written and performed by legendary singer/songwriter Paul Williams. The music is always such a blast to review for this film. I got for years without hearing and I can pick it up and continue like I last here it yesterday. Finally, this horror/thriller classic is getting a great treatment on Blu-ray thanks to Shout Factory!

Official Premise: Brian De Palma’s glam rock version of the famous Phantom of the Opera story stars singer-songwriter Paul Williams as Swan, a music business tycoon who steals the work of talented composer Winslow Leach (Finley), along with his girlfriend Phoenix (Harper). Leach plans to get revenge, but his plans soon go horribly wrong and he ends up with a terrible facial disfigurement. Assuming a mask to hide his injuries and his identity, Leach’s next move is to sign a pact with a Swan to write a rock opera version of ‘Faust’.

“Phantom of the Paradise” looks stunning on Blu-ray for film that is literally 40 years old. This film has received several European Blu-ray releases in the past and this one is definitely the best one of the bunch. Shout! has delivered a solid 1080p transfer that is deserving of this epic film. They also includes two audio tracks inclduing a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and also 2.0 track. The music really benefits from the 5.1 track and honestly is a no contest when compared to the 2.0 track.

Shout! Factory is releasing this Collector’s Edition as a combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD. They really have given this release the works and added tons of great special features on both disks. “Brian De Palma Backstage at the Paradise” is a great brand new interview with the director reflecting on the film. “Paul Williams Soul Inspiration” is another great brand new interview with the man behind the film’s music. “Behind the Mask with Tom Burman” is yet another brand new interview with the film’s special effects supervisor on the Phantom.

There is a solid brand new audio commentary with Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and the Juicy Fruits (consisting of Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Harold Oblong aka Peter Eibling). This is a quite entertaining trip down memory lane for the group. There is also another brand new audio commentary with Production Designer Jack Fisk. It is a bit more technical and not as exciting but still a nice addition. There is an interesting look at 11 alternate takes and are shown in split screen with the final version. Lastly there is a stills gallery includes as well as outtake footage from “Swan Song” and the story behind it from the film.

Normally, I would have been happy with just those extras but Shout! decided to go ahead and include a another slew of special features on the DVD as well. There is an awesome documentary called “Paradise Regained” with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. There is an awesome interview with Paul Williams that is moderated by Guillermo del Toro. There is a 2004 interview with Costume Designer Rosanna Norton. An Interview with Producer Edward R. Pressman and another with Drummer Gary Malaber. “Alvin’s Art and Technique: A Look at the Neon Poster” is a cool piece on poster designer John Alvin. Lastly is “Phantom of the Paradise Biography by Gerrit Graham”, “William Finley and Toy” & some promotional materials.

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