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Phantom of the Paradise(1974)
When a record producer steals a composer’s music and girlfriend, the composer becomes “The Phantom” of the producer’s rock palace and attempts to exact his revenge.
For more about Phantom of the Paradise and the Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray release, see Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 21, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma
Starring: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Robin Mattson
» See full cast & crew
Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 21, 2014
Brian De Palma's "Phantom of the Paradise" (1974) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailers for the film; production and archival photos; new video interview with actor Paul Williams conducted by acclaimed Mexican director Guillermo del Toro; archival interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton; radio spots; and more. The release also arrives with a collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth and an exploration of the film's troubled marketing history by Ari Kahan, illustrated with original stills and promotional material. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Written and directed by Brian De Palma, Phantom of the Paradise is a terrific piece of psychedelia. It is colorful, wild, mesmerizing, frustrating, kitschy, hilarious, odd and beautiful. It is also a musical of sorts - one that bends forms and styles in such a wicked fashion that one must wonder what was going on in director De Palma's life when he shot the film.
Here's the plot: During a highly anticipated audition, Swan (Paul Williams, Stone Cold Dead), the owner of the successful Death Records, steals the score for the unfinished Faust cantata from a talented but incredibly naive composer, Winslow Leach (William Finley, Sisters), looking to make it big. Swan is so impressed by the music that he immediately decides to use it for the grand opening of his club, The Paradise. With the assistance of powerful friends, he frames Winslow and throws him in jail. But the composer manages to escape, and heads back to Death Records looking for revenge. There he accidentally falls and gets his face disfigured by a pressing machine.
Eventually, Winslow meets Swan but instead of revenge gets a contract, which he signs with his own blood -- Swan convinces him to finish the Faust cantata for Phoenix (Jessica Harper, Suspiria), a young and beautiful singer, with whom Winslow has fallen in love with. When he delivers the Faust cantata, Swan bricks him up alive in his studio, but Winslow manages to escape and all hell breaks loose.
De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise reminded me of American expatriate William Klein's Mister Freedom. Both films allow for two profoundly different reads of their stories - one where the audience isn't required to pay close attention to the numerous references they contain, and another where reading between the lines is essential. Both films also seem fairly comfortable with the idea that kitsch allows for great storytelling so long as at the end the kitsch is somehow rationalized. In Klein's film the kitsch is used to effectively criticize America's imperialistic ambitions; in De Palma's film the kitsch is used to satirize the showbiz.
The flavor of the kitsch in Mister Freedom, however, differs considerably from the one present in Phantom of the Paradise. In Klein's film the exaggerations are blunt and frequently quite vulgar. As a result, the main protagonist is impossible to like; the political overtones in the film are also extremely easy to detect.
In Phantom of the Paradise the main protagonist is so weak that once he begins to suffer it becomes quite easy to feel for him; he is the ugly duckling that no one wants. Yet instead of embracing him De Palma proceeds to exploit his misery, thus ensuring that Phantom of the Paradise does not evolve into a cliched soap opera.
Visually, Phantom of the Paradise is overwhelming. What takes place on the screen has to be seen to be believed. During the film's final act it literally feels as if De Palma demanded everyone to go berserk in front of the camera, just like Fellini did in a few of his films. The only difference here is that Phantom of the Paradise lacks the grace and elegance of Fellini's films which, arguably, is precisely what makes it so special.
In 1975, Phantom of the Paradise was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and/or Adaptation (Paul Williams and George Aliceson Tipton).
Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"Phantom of the Paradise was transferred from original pre-print material by Twentieth Century Fox in the USA. This was delivered as a restored file on a master to Arrow Films.
Technical supervisor: James White.
Authoring: David Mackenzie."
I have mixed feelings about this new release of Phantom of the Paradise. Its basic characteristics are unquestionably superior to those of French label Opening Distribution's release, which we reviewed in 2010. Indeed, grain is better resolved, dirt and specs have been carefully removed, and the encoding is superior. The color timing and contrast balance of this new release, however, are drastically different. In fact, the discrepancies between the two releases are so big that when comparing the two it actually feels like they enhance entirely different qualities -- the look of the French release supports the kitschy qualities of De Palma's film, while Arrow's release supports the film's lusher musical qualities. Generally speaking, on the Arrow release there is a much wider range of well saturated browns and yellows, which appear to have replaced a good range of nuanced reds/pinks that are prominent on the French release (compare screencapture #1 with screencapture #4 from our review of the French release). The contrast and brightness settings are also different. As a result, the film looks darker but also lusher (screencapture #6 with screencapture #2 from our review of the French release). However, not knowing whether the new color scheme has been in any way approved or endorsed by director De Palma, one will have to rely on one's instincts to choose the 'correct' version of the film. My feeling is that the color adjustments performed at Fox are too strong. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: Enlgish LPCM 2.0 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0. Also included on the disc is an Isolated Music & Effects LPCM 2.0 track. For the record, Arrow Video have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I viewed the film with the LPCM 2.0 track and was enormously pleased with it. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track (4-track original stereo track) definitely introduces a new range of nuanced dynamics, but both tracks serve the film very well. The music is vibrant and well rounded while the dialog is exceptionally crisp, free of hiss, and easy to follow. For the record, there are no pops, cracks, or distortions to report in this review.
Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is easy to see that Arrow Video have tried to deliver yet another definitive release of a cult film, but I think that the new color grading of Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise will inspire some very passionate debates. My feeling is that some of the color corrections are too strong, but I wonder if they were in any way approved or endorsed by director De Palma. This being said, the release comes with plenty of terrific supplemental features, including an excellent conversation between Mexican director Guillermo del Toro and actor Paul Williams, which make it quite easy to recommend.
Phantom of the Paradise: Other Editions
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Phantom of the Paradise Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Phantom of the Paradise Officially Announced - January 16, 2014
British distributors Arrow Video have officially announced and detailed their upcoming Blu-ray release of Brian De Palma's cult comedy Phantom of the Paradise (1974), starring Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, George Memmoli, and Gerrit Graham. The ...
• Upcoming Arrow Video Releases - October 24, 2013
Arrow Video have revealed that they are planning to add a number of exciting titles to their Blu-ray catalog in 2014: Donald Cammell's White of the Eye, Tinto Brass' Frivolous Lola and Cheeky, Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise, Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's ...
• Arrow to Release Brian De Palma's The Fury, Sisters, and Phantom ... - May 22, 2013
British distributors Arrow Video have revealed that they are preparing a Blu-ray release of director Brian De Palma's The Fury (1978), starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, and Charles Durning. Exact technical specs and supplemental features ...
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