Cult Movie Essentials

Cult Movie Essentials: Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Probably the weirdest musical ever made, Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise follows composer and singer Winslow Leach (played by William Finley) who is spotted by Swan (Paul Williams) an evil record producer from Death Records who believes Winslow’s music is perfect to open “The Paradise” – Swan’s highly anticipated new concert hall – and has his right-hand man Arnold Philbin (George Memmoli) steal it under the guise of producing him.

One month later, Winslow goes to Swan’s Death Records to follow up about his music but is thrown out. He sneaks into Swan’s private mansion and observes several women rehearsing his music for an audition. One is Phoenix, an aspiring singer, who Winslow deems “perfect” for his music. Winslow is shocked to discover Swan’s plan is to open the Paradise with his music! after he is thrown out again. He is then discovered and thrown out.

In response, Winslow disguises himself as a woman to sneak in and try to speak to Swan. Swan has Winslow beaten up and framed for drug dealing. Winslow is given a life sentence in Sing Sing Prison and his teeth are extracted and replaced with metal ones. This happened because it was part of an experimental prisoner program to decrease infection amongst inmates, funded by the Swan Foundation!

Time then moves forward to six months later where Winslow discovers that The Juicy Fruits have made an anticipated hit record of his music with Swan’s backing. After a breakdown, Winslow escapes prison in a delivery box and breaks into the Death Records building. A guard startles Winslow as he is destroying the records and presses, causing him to slip and fall face first into a record press, which crushes and burns his face and destroys his vocal cords!  A disoriented, and now deformed, Winslow sneaks into the Paradise costume department and dons a long, black cape and a silver, owl-like mask, becoming the Phantom of the Paradise and seeks revenge…

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