What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:
Phantom of the Paradise: Collector’s Edition
Genre: Cult Classic
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Run time: 92 minutes
The Lowdown: Before there was Dr. Frank-N-Furter, there was Swan. And before there was his blonde Adonis creation Rocky, there was the Phantom, poor, weak, gifted Winslow Leech.
A year before the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was released, a young director named Brian De Palma introduced audiences to his own twisted, campy take on a rock musical, “Phantom of the Paradise.”
Mind you, no one knew at that time the great heights that De Palma would reach as a director, that he would be responsible for some of the most iconic gangster movies ever made (Scarface, The Untouchables) and some of the most gruesomely erotic thrillers of the 1980s (Dressed to Kill, Blow Out).
In 1974, accompanied by a diminutive songwriter named Paul Williams and a cast of unknown actors, De Palma crafted a bizarre, head-screw of a camp classic about a Faustian bargain between a musician, Leech, and the world’s most successful record producer, Swan, whose Death Records could make anyone into a star.
“Phantom” is a hoot. Watching it today, 40 years after its release, De Palma’s influences resonate more immediately. There are shades of “A Clockwork Orange,” hints of “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and more. The acting is often painfully over the top, but Williams’ songs, as well as his hilarious portrayal of someone who sold his own soul for immortality and fame, carries the film through its rough patches.
If you’ve never seen “Phantom of the Paradise,” now you have no excuse. It’s a must for cult classic aficionados, and it’s a great example of how Scream Factory is culling, restoring and releasing some of the best, forgotten gems of yesterday that are truly worth your time.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The Phantom, baby.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – A treasure trove of goodies: Brian De Palma Backstage at the Paradise, Paul Williams Soul Inspiration, Behind the Mask with Tom Burman, Alternate Takes, Swan Song (Outtake Footage), Audio Commentaries, Paradise Regained, Cast and Crew Interviews, and more.
Without Warning (Shout! Factory, 96 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): A long-lost relic from 1980, “Without Warning” is an alien invasion-slasher mash-up that features two future Oscar winners slumming at a low point in their respective careers. Jack Palance and Martin Landau are the future Academy winners, and they give this low-budget thriller the necessary gravitas and heft. The main alien still has to be seen to be believed, at once incredibly hammy yet still weirdly effective due to the creative camerawork and use of shadows and light employed.
Need for Speed (Disney, 130 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): I love Aaron Paul, but he should have turned down this woeful, wannabe Gone in 60 Fast and Furious Seconds.
Put it this way, the video game version that the film was based on has more depth and character development.
The Quiet Ones (Lionsgate, 97 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): I don’t know why Hammer Films can’t seem to find its footing now that the studio that defined British horror is finally back making movies, but damn if they just can’t buy a winner.
“The Quiet Ones” has a good set-up but terrible execution. It has a few moments of genuine chill, but the ending seems slapped together and rushed. It’s a shame because in the credits, you get to see actual photos of the real test subject that the movie was based upon, and you can’t help but wonder if the real story might have been better without any unnecessary Hollywood exaggeration.
Around the Block
Ja’mie: Private School Girl
Ping Pong Summer
I’ll Follow You Down
The Trip to Bountiful
Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series
The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 3
Mythbusters Collection 11
Community: The Complete Fifth Season
Top Gear 21
Californication: The Final Season
12 O’Clock Boys