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Prologue to a movie post

Guillermo del Toro's debut feature Cronos has been out of print for a while, but was recently rereleased by Criterion. I think it's been in my Netflix queue since the last time I watched Hellboy, ages ago, so as soon as I saw the release date I bumped it up to the top. They've filled it out a bit since its previous release with a few more special features, including a tour of del Toro's office/studio, Bleak House, which is a stunning collection of movie/comic/horror geek paraphernalia. Several times during the tour, del Toro refers to a movie called Phantom of the Paradise, which I'd never heard of, but which is apparently a favorite of his. He has models and everything. (I think he might have mentioned it in the commentary as well, but it was the Bleak House tour where it really stuck me.) I immediately plopped it into my queue (this is why my queue is so long. I'm impressionable).

You have got to see this movie. It was not at all what I was expecting. Written and directed by Brian De Palma, released in 1974, it's an almost musical inspired by Phantom of the Opera and Faust about a rock opera based on Faust, with a little Picture of Dorian Gray and Frankenstein and a few other things thrown in. And it is freakin' hilarious. And well-paced! And suspenseful, actually, even if you already know all the source material.

And the writer of all the music, who also plays the antagonist, is Paul Williams, co-writer of "Rainbow Connection."

You guys.

The devil is played by the tiny man who co-wrote "Rainbow Connection."

The rest of the cast is largely comprised of 'where do I know them from?' character actors, and they are milking it. I don't know if De Palma had seen The Rocky Horror Show (the movie wouldn't come out til the following year but the play first ran in 1973), but it feels like he did. It also feels like Paul Williams wrote a rock opera based on Faust and realized he couldn't get it produced, so he incorporated it into De Palma's movie instead. The music is really good (it was nominated for an Oscar), and perfectly suits the movie. Often I find that movies about music, about overnight sensation pop stars, never feature original music that sounds like it would race up the charts the way the plot claims it does, but all the songs in Phantom sound like they could have been topping Billboard in the mid-70s. Williams knows how to craft a pop song (he wrote for Three Dog Night and The Carpenters, and David Bowie recorded one of them on Hunky Dory. Wiki says he's even worked with Scissor Sisters recently). (Oh, and he's also the voice of The Penguin on Batman: The Animated Series.)

There's also a hilarious glam rocker character with very Bowie/Marc Bolan roots, and maybe a pinch of Freddie Mercury, although I don't know to what degree Queen had taken off yet when writing and filming was going on. But again, it feels like it's in there in a way that makes the film very precisely and perfectly of its time.

Definitely check out Phantom of the Paradise if you get the chance. I can't believe I'd never heard of it before.

Williams performing one of the film's songs on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

'Best of 2010: Movies' will be out later this week.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2010 05:15 am (UTC)

The devil is played by the tiny man who co-wrote "Rainbow Connection."

um, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? O_o

this sounds like something i need to check out!
Dec. 16th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
You really do, it's a hoot. It's the sort of film you immediately want to make all your friends watch with you.
Dec. 16th, 2010 06:36 am (UTC)
You might want to check out...
The Swan Archives: http://www.swanarchives.org
Dec. 16th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: You might want to check out...
Thank you, stranger!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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