William Finley

Phantom of the Paradise (1974) - Brian De Palma


Brian De Palma


Edward R. Pressman


Brian De Palma


Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper and Rod Serling


Harbor Productions and 20th Century Fox


October 31, 1974


United States


$1.3 million


Musical Horror

This horror musical strikes a chord on the scary scale with how our hero is treated by the devilish antagonist, Swan. The songs in the movie are shades above Grease and just under Rocky Horror. It's an early movie directed by Brian DePalma that really showcases some serious artistic originality. Everything from the storyline to the music was crazy and new at the time. It's still a wonder to me that this is only just a cult classic.

The movie is about a nerdy, gullible, wind bag named Winslow. Who gets out smarted by the most notorious musical producer of all time. Enter Swan, the creepiest little man I have ever seen and the most evil force known to musickind. In a crazy game of sell me your soul, Winslow ends up nearly dying and suffering immense torture due to a harsh command from Swan. He is scarred after nearly having his head smashed in a vinyl press. When Winslow returns to exact his revenge upon Swan, he is fooled again! This movie clearly shows the influence that big corporations have on little musicians. It's a really cool message for a movie, but not surprising considering when it was made. 

The music in the movie is composed by Paul Williams, who appears on Daft Punk's 2013 album Random Access Memories. It is actually pretty amazing. The glam-rock/electronic influences were really neat. The horror influences were really great as well. You had a tiny bit of Hitchcock and a few other shlock b-movie influences that moved it along. It really helped and made the scenes with Swan extra creepy. The movie even shows a few scenes that nod to early silent horror movies and german expressionism. This is really a fine film. 

This was an early feature from Brian De Palma that showed the director actually adventuring with film-making. It's such an extra-ordinary time. Everyone wants to make their mark. He definitely does here. It's like Suspiria, Phantom of the Opera, and Rocky Horror all rolled into one movie. I really loved it and highly recommend this to anyone. Surprisingly it's rated PG! I think that is the scariest thing about the movie though. 

Did ya know...

William Finley (The Phantom) died in 2012. There was a fan festival in Winnepeg in 2005 nicknamed Phantompalooza. Rod Serling does the introduction.