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31 Days of Horror: Brian De Palma Goes Glam in ‘Phantom of the Paradise’

To celebrate the spookiest month of the year, we’re celebrating the cinematic macabre. Today, we look at one terrifying number in the horror musical, ‘Phantom of the Paradise.’

Say what you will about Brian De Palma, he’s never been afraid of a challenge. Merely a year after The Rocky Horror Picture Show hit the states, De Palma’s wildly inventive horror/musical, Phantom of the Paradise, was flopping in theaters across the country. However, thanks to events like “Phantompalooza” in Winnipeg and cult movie fans around the world, Phantom of the Paradise is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

With original music written by the great Paul Williams, Phantom of the Paradise is a rock version of Faust with twinges of Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good measure. William Finley plays Winslow Leach, a disfigured composer, who has made a pact with Swan, an evil record producer (Paul Williams), so that he can continue to make music. After falling in love with Phoenix, a budding starlet, Winslow, now known as the Phantom because of his respirator mask, insists she star in his new show.

When Swan chooses stage sensation Beef (Gerrit Graham) over Phoenix for the part, the Phantom seeks revenger and real horror begins. In a fantastic lip-synch performance of ‘Life at Last’, Graham embodies evil, owning the stage as he sings, “Do you realize that all of you donated something horrible you hated that’s a part of you? I’m your nightmare coming true!”

The audience squirms with anticipation as they watch the Phantom prepare to kill the crooning Beef with an electric lighting bolt straight to the heart. In true control of his craft, De Palma delivers a dynamic and horrific sequence filled with thrills and chills with the song punctuated by the Phantom’s mechanical laugh. You’ll be screaming right along with the crowds in the film. 


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