Saturday, March 17, 2012

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE - Paul Williams -"Maimed and Framed" (1974)

Ready for a Super Soylent Green Day Saturday Night, well, here you go! I never saw "Phantom Of The Paradise" until recently, and the basic reason is that I was never a fan of the schmaltzy pop music of Paul Williams, and that's what I thought it was all about! I was wrong, and I stand corrected, this movie rocks, and as an extra bonus, it even comes with introductory narration by Mr. Twilight Zone himself, Rod Serling!

"Phantom Of The Paradise is a musical, and as bright and snappy as it might look, the funniest thing is that it's not really a comedy, in fact despite some moments of hilarity, it is actually a pretty gruesome horror tale that was both written and directed by Brian De Palma, so what else would you expect? Mr. De Palma hasn't made any movies since 2007, but has written, and is directing a new murder mystery that is coming out next year entitled "Passion." Might be something new to actually look forward to!

So, let's just start at the end, the multi-talented Paul Williams has credits that go on forever, and if writing all the songs for the incredibly bad movie "Ishtar" in 1987 didn't kill his career, maybe he really did sell his soul to the devil! For this role, Paul is Swan, the over the top devious head of Swan Records, and the owner of the ultimate rock palace, The Paradise!

There's a young pianist named Winslow Leach who thinks the world should be his oyster, and his rebellious soul is just about to meet up with, "Did somebody call security?"

This is indeed the last guy in the world whose finger or leg you want to pull. Not only was Winslow Leach forcibly ejected from The Paradise, he now also has drugs planted on him. He was playing around with the wrong people!

Next stop, The Nuthouse!! Speaking of The Nuthouse, he ain't Irish, but today is Tabonga's birthday!

Winslow Leach didn't really die, but he was horribly disfigured, a condition he hides behind this wacky mask!

William Finley met Brian De Palma when they both attended college, and went on to work with Brian on numerous projects that included "The Fury," and "The Black Dahlia!"

Deals are made between the devil and the dead!

The desk that Swan sits at for the auditions looks like a giant 7" 45 record! Hard to believe that millions of people today have no idea what that even is! Harder to believe is that two years before De Palma's "Carrie," Sissy Spacek was the Art Department set dresser for "Phantom Of The Paradise!"

Swan's number one act is The Juicyfruits, a moldable group of guys that morph easily from Doo-Wop to Surf to Death! Left to right are Archie (Eat Or Be Eaten) Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor in his only acting gig, but he did write some of the music for "Midnight Cowboy," and Peter (Disco Beaver From Outer Space) Elbling! In all my meanderings, this is the first time I've been able to reference The Firesign Theatre, and National Lampoon in the same caption!

You gotta love these thee guys, here they are again in their incarnation as The Undeads!

Next up is the fabulous Gerrit Graham as Beef! Gerritt would be irreplaceable in flicks like "Beware! The Blob," "Tunnel Vision," and "TerrorVision!"

How about a little role reversal on the "Psycho" shower scene?

We've been trying to cut back on our photos about a third, but Beef is so animated, I could have easily just shown you 20 shots of him and been done a whole lot sooner!

The supposed so pure and innocent love interest of Winslow is Jessica Harper as Phoenix! You'll remember Jessica from her starring role in "Suspiria" when Zillagord gets around to doing it one of these days! Another one of the weirdest things about "Phantom Of The Paradise" is that if I'm not mistaken, every person I have mentioned so far is still alive and kicking to this day! That's not something that happens too often around here!

When Beef goes down, it's finally time for Phoenix's star to shine, before she is dragged down into the quagmire of despair known as Swan's world!

I told you this wasn't a comedy, and as you can well see for yourself, it's no laughing matter, nor was I kidding!!!

I took a class on the films of Jean Renoir many, many years ago, and if there was one thing I learned, it was that movies don't have to necessarily be just comedy or drama, that they can be like real life, funny one minute and tragic the next. That pretty much sums up this cross between "Faust" and "The Phantom Of The Opera!" Yeah, and no happy ending neither!


Prof. Grewbeard said...

i still listen the soundtrack all the time. went on my first date to see this movie and got my first goodnight kiss afterwards!

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Awesome! Before we got married, I actually took my wife to the drive-in to see the Jeff Goldblum version of "The Fly!" Believe it or not, we're still together!

zillagord said...

Oh geez.... Second "Suspiria" reference in the last week. Perhaps I should back away from the blender and get cracking. Well, maybe after this last margarita...

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Switch to "on the rocks" and you'll have more free time on your hands!


Douglas McEwan said...

Not to rain on your "no one has died" parade, but George Memmoli, who played the fat slob chief of security for Swan, Philbin, is long dead. He was morbidly obese, only getting more huge than he already was in Phantom. His fat killed him at the age of 46.

Sissy Spacek is married to Jack Fisk, who was DePalma's Production designer, which is how Sissy got on the crew. It's nice, in casting Carrie, that he promotoed from within. Insteresting irony: in high school back in Texas, Sissy Spacek really was the Homecoming Queen! Her classmates were lucky to get home alive.

Phantom of the Paradise is one of my favorite movies. I saw it opening weekend (Halloween) in 1974, exactly one year before Carrie was released, and walked out thinking: "This movie is so great, it will be a huge hit." I was wrong however. It never made money, and is instead a cult favorite that lost money. It makes a swell double feature with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with which it shares much in common. (They came out only 11 months apart.)

I used to know Archie Hahn for a while, back in the late 1970s. a VERY funny man. One day, when I knew I was going to be seeing him, I took along my vynal copy of the soundtrack album. (Those songs are great, and Jessica Harper does her own singing. She is a wonderful singer. She later played Janet in Shock Treatment, the sequel to Rocky Horror.) Archie signed my album cover and told me that DePalma still (this was 1978) owed him money for the movie. It was so fly-by-nightly produced that Archie never got paid in full.

Speaking of which, once I ran into Gerrit Graham in a book store in West Hollywood. I was about to go talk to him when I realized he was stocking shelves! This was in the mid-1990s, well into his prolific acting career, yet he was working as a clerk in a book store to make ends meet. I decided to spare him the humiliation of "recognizing" him and then wondering why he was working there, when I'd just seen him play the Devil on that Twilight Zone reboot series they did in the 1990s a few days before. His "Beef" is a classic comedy character. He is the only performer in the movie whose singing voice is dubbed by someone else.

I watch my DVD of it at least annually. A wonderful movie.

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Always great to hear about your personal experiences, it adds a lot to the story! In my defense, I did say "every person I have mentioned so far" and I never made any reference to George Memmoli! 46, what a shame!

Douglas McEwan said...

I never said that any of the people you had mentioned were dead, I just brought up someone from the film who is dead. I did find it odd that you hadn't mentioned Memmoli, as he has such a large (in more ways than one) role in the film. He is in one of the stills you put up, the one with Swan's 45-RPM desk.

Great movie.

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

As much as I wish there was enough time to mention every person in every film, it's just too much, so we pick and choose, and in this particular case, George was left out in the cold, and you're right, it IS a great movie, and I actually prefer it over "The Rocky Horror Picture Show!"

Douglas McEwan said...

"I actually prefer it over "The Rocky Horror Picture Show!"

So do I.

For one thing, if you attend a screening of it, you can see and hear it, not have a bunch of lunatics around your chanting the dialogue, shouting decades-old joke responses at the screen, and otherwise proving so annoying that I stopped going to see Rocky Horror onscreen years ago. Couldn't stand the wanna-be's putting on their own "show."

Anonymous said...


First things first, love your Winslow collage, where it looks like he's in Swan's secret room. Oh, he would find his way in, eventually, but in the pic I'm talking about, it looks more like a cross transfer pic. Please let me know if I'm right.

As to George Memmoli... Oddly, I was thinking about him today, connected to Phantompalooza and a very decent tribute done for him by Gerrit Graham. (Beef) . Anywho, I remember seeing George on a show in the early 80' episode of a show called Delveccio (with Judd Hirsch~TAXI) and in that episode, I actually had to LOOK because the face seemed familiar but this guy was NOT fat! Took me a minute to figure out who it was, and I'm like, "Philbin"?

I get this info from first hand sources, as a friend of mine was one of the organizers of Phantompalooza. According to my friend, Gerrit told him that what eventually took George's life was an on set-accident from another movie, (will have to check on that movie) that caused health issues down the road and eventually lead to heart failure. Shame, too! Apparently a lot of the stuff you see between their characters (Philbin and Beef ) was worked out between the actors. A few lines Brian wanted kept, but for the rest, they were free to play.

Character wise, though, Winslow will always be my favorite. Okay, so he went in with more hope than horse sense. As irony would have it, Winslow has become a reminder of what to do and NOT do if I'm dealing with 'big' people in business (i.e. publishing). C.Y.B. Cover your Butt!

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

J L O D,

Thanx for all the info, the picture in question is a cross fade from one shot to another if I remember correctly!

gboukensha said...

Just discovered the blog, and it looks fantastic! I also second the preference over Rocky Horror. Gotta love the Juicy Fruits!

Dr. Theda said...

I have liked this film since I first saw it on the CBS Late Movie as a child.... ( the same way that I got to see the "Dr. Phibes" movies for the first time....)
A very enjoyable film... I still listen to "the Hell of It" (Normally the Sweeney Todd version on You Tube...)
as usual ... a great post and Awesome pics...

Eegah!! and Tabonga! said...

Nice to see that somebody is digging around in the tomes Doc! Thanx!

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