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Phantom of the Paradise

Directed by Brian DePalma. US. 1974. PG. 92 minutes. Fox. Digital Restoration.
Fri., February 14, 2014
February 14, 2014
10:15 pm

Celebrate Valentine’s Day at The Colonial with an unconventional love story – “The Phantom of the Paradise!” We’re screening a widely-praised digital restoration of Brian DePalma’s campy horror/musical/comedy/love story. Released on Halloween 1974, “Phantom of the Paradise” masterfully blends a sly sense of humor, eye-catching art direction, the unique vision of a talented director, and a soundtrack full of original songs written by the legendary Paul Williams! According to the experts who run The Swan Archives, a website dedicated to all things associated with TPOTP, after years of neglect “the movie has never looked or sounded better.” Join us for a late evening of stunning visuals and fantastic music courtesy of Messrs. DePalma and Williams.

A Brief History of  Phantom of the Paradise

Paul Williams is a musical genius! A quick glance at his songwriting output from the late 60 to the early 80s verifies our proclamation. He wrote hits for everyone from The Monkees (Someday Man) and The Muppets (Rainbow Connection) to Three Dog Night (Old Fashioned Love Song) and The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun). Williams even nabbed an Oscar for co-writing Evergreen (The theme from A Star is Born) with Barbara Streisand. Although his albums never sold as well as those who covered his songs, Williams became a household name thanks to his appearances on the Tonight Show and numerous 70s variety shows. At the height of his popularity, the pint-sized songwriter, who dabbled in films before making the switch to music, decided to give Hollywood another try. For his first headlining movie, he chose to collaborate with up-and-coming filmmaker Brian DePalma on a rock & roll musical update of The Phantom of the Opera (with an extra helping of Faust).

“The Phantom of the Paradise” had all the makings of a hit: a sly sense of humor, eye-catching art direction, a young director with a unique vision, and a soundtrack full of original songs written by a red hot songwriter. It even boasted Williams in the juicy role of an evil music impresario. Unfortunately, the movie tanked. How could a movie with this much going for it be ignored by the public? Maybe it was the fact that it poked fun at 70s excess, fan worship and the greediness of the corporate music industry. It could have been the fact that outside of Paul Williams none of the other actors were stars. Or it may have been too weird for most moviegoers.

Although pronounced D.O.A. at the box office, “The Phantom of the Paradise” found its audience by traveling the back roads. A few months after its U.S. release, TPOTP quietly opened in Canada during the Christmas season. For some reason, the residents of Winnipeg embraced TPOTP. Their passion for the film kept it in theaters for several months and sent the soundtrack album flying off of record store shelves. America finally joined the TPOTP party in the summer of 1982, when MTV aired it as a midnight movie. Not long after that TV broadcast, midnight screenings of TPOTP started to pop up at revival houses and college campuses throughout the U.S. And a cult favorite was born. (Brendan Carr)

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