Wednesday, August 14, 2019


I first saw Phantom of the Paradise (1974) a few years ago and immediately became obsessed with it; I downloaded the entire soundtrack and listened to it constantly for weeks. I was delighted to be able to revisit the film this week thanks to the Shudder streaming service, where the film is currently available. If you have a subscription to Shudder, put Phantom of the Paradise on your watchlist and make time for it while it's still in the current rotation of offerings.

My second viewing of the picture left me just as impressed with the wry dark humor and literate sense of horror that the picture conveys. Brian De Palma's cult classic holds up extremely well, especially because it deals so provocatively with the same timeless themes that inspired Faust, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. This time I introduced my eighteen year old to the film, and she was just as entranced as I was; I'm hoping she will spread appreciation for it like a virus when she heads to college this fall.

You could easily build a whole mini film festival or graduate course around Phantom of the Paradise, starting with the 1925 Phantom of the Opera and F.W. Murnau's 1926 adaptation of Faust. (For a really short course on the Faust themes, you can also just watch the 1978 appearance of Alice Cooper on The Muppet Show - it covers all the basics.) Add in some later Phantom adaptations - the 1943 version with Claude Rains or even the 1989 version with Robert Englund - and then mix in some other great horror films depicting disfigured artists, like House of Wax (1953). One of the many great things about Phantom of the Paradise is the way it evokes and dovetails with so many other films.

While I appreciate the niche focus of Shudder, I'm often disappointed by its lack of classic horror; the appearance of Phantom of the Paradise has helped to make up for that limitation, and I hope this brilliantly bizarre cult favorite will remain in its catalog long enough for lots of new fans to find it.