Phantom of the Paradise (Fox) (1974)

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Released 12-Aug-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Theatrical Trailer-2:54
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 87:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian De Palma
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Paul Williams
William Finley
Jessica Harper
George Memmoli
Gerrit Graham
Archie Hahn
Jeffrey Comanor
Harold Oblong
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Paul Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Take one part of Phantom of the Opera (the original, not the musical), mix liberally with Faust, sprinkle with grated Picture of Dorian Grey, and add rock music (both good and bad). Bake in a moderate oven until done, and ice with bright colours. That's Phantom of the Paradise. Well, sort of.

    The opening narration claims that this movie is about Swan (Paul Williams). It is, and it isn't. This movie is told from the viewpoint of Winslow Leach (William Finley). Winslow is a musician. He is working on his masterpiece, a cantata telling the story of Faust in rock music. Swan is rather impressed with the music, but is not impressed with the pretensions of the cantata - Swan has made his money (lots and lots of money) catering to the lowest common denominator of pop music (this film was made in 1974, so I think it pre-dates Stock, Aitken, Waterman, but you get the idea, right?).

    Swan wants the music to open his new concert venue, The Paradise. He has been looking for the right music to use for the opening. He just wants the music, not Winslow. Swan's righthand man, Philbin (George Memmoli) visits Winslow, and talks him into handing over a copy of his music.

    When Winslow visits Death Records, he is refused admission. He tries to sneak in, but gets beaten and thrown in jail (Sing Sing - a cute irony). He escapes, and is busily destroying Swan's records of his music when he is discovered by a nightwatchman. In his attempt to escape, he gets his head trapped in a record press (gruesome concept). He is grotesquely disfigured, and loses his voice. This doesn't remove his desire for revenge, however. He disguises himself and haunts The Paradise, sabotaging anything he can.

    Swan finds Winslow, and persuades him to rewrite his music for his choice of singer - Winslow chooses Phoenix (Jessica Harper - she gets the best songs, and sings them well in a contralto range). Swan talks Winslow into a contract, a very particular kind of contract, one which must be signed in blood...

    There are some interesting things in this film. Apparently they changed the name to Death Records from Swan Records because it was too similar to Led Zeppelin's label, or something like that. There's a rostrum in the airport scene that has the worst example of an overlay you'll ever see to impose the Death Records name over the original Swan Records name.

    This movie tries to get around the corniness of elements in its story by playing things up - a form of self-parody. I'd rate it as mostly successful - this film is deliberately putting itself into the "so bad it's good" category. The character Beef (Gerrit Graham) is on a par with Frank'n'furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Phantom Of The Paradise wasn't a huge success on initial release, but it's had a long life on video. I wasn't surprised to see it appear on DVD. They didn't put a whole heap of effort into this disc, but it's still amusing to watch.

    Oh, if you like checking the credits for names you recognise, have a look at the credits on this disc - I was wondering if the Sissy Spacek listed as set dresser was the one we know. The answer is yes - that's the lady who starred in Carrie two years after this film was made.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    The image is more than a little variable. Parts of the footage are rather grainy. Parts are rather good. Even the best parts are a little soft, though. Shadow detail is fairly good. There is no low-level noise, but there's enough film grain and film artefacts to make up for it...

    Colour is good, but not great, and a little bit faded, almost inevitable with early 1970s film stocks. Colours are definitely not oversaturated.

    There are a lot of film artefacts. They start with the Fox logo at the start of the film (old, horribly grainy, and splattered with artefacts). Most of the film artefacts are small, but there are some larger ones (perhaps the worst is the white scratch around 60:49). There's not a lot of serious aliasing, but there is some; most of it is quite minor. There's no MPEG shimmer and no moire. Basically, this is a fairly poor transfer, but we've seen far worse.

    There are subtitles in English. Well, actually, they are captions. They are well-timed, mostly accurate, and easy to read.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The only soundtrack on this disc is English in Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded. This is a straight stereo soundtrack. That's OK as that's all the film had when it was released.

    The dialogue is mostly clear - there's an obscured line here and there, but they are not essential to the plot. The audio sync for speech is fine, but the lip-syncing on the songs is not good (this may well be deliberate, but it's fairly subtle, and nothing else in this film is subtle...).

    The words and music are credited to Paul Williams.

    This straight stereo mix makes no use of the surround speakers, nor of the sub. There's a reasonable amount of bass in the soundtrack, but it will all come out of your mains unless your bass management reroutes it to the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, but it does the job.

Theatrical Trailer (2:54)

    Enjoy the trailer - it's the only extra on the disc. It's an interesting example of the art at the time, although it is covered in artefacts. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc has everything that's on the Region 4 disc.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc has a slightly better picture, with less obvious grain, but still some. It is still soft, but I found it a little less troubling. The overlay on the rostrum at the airport is still dreadful, though.

    Overall, the R1 disc is slightly better, but the difference is not huge. On this film I doubt you could tell the difference without side-by-side comparisons. You could probably be happy with either version.

Summary

    Phantom Of The Paradise is a movie that's so bad it's good, on a DVD that's OK, but no more than that.

    The video quality is not fabulous.

    The audio quality is fair.

    The extra is minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, August 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
Seems to be framed wrong - Glenn
Framing. - paulisdead (Read my bio...lies all lies!!!)