Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
5 Stars
High-Def Extras
5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Phantom of the Paradise

Street Date:
August 5th, 2014
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 6th, 2014
Movie Release Year:
1974
Studio:
Shout Factory
Length:
92 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

In the mid-'70s, the American public and the critics weren't ready for musical comedy horror films, as 20th Century Fox would find out with the release of Brian De Palma's 'Phantom of the Paradise' (1974) and Jim Sharman's 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' (1975). After flopping at the box office, 'RHPS' started its ascent into becoming a worldwide phenomenon the following year when it first found its audience on the midnight-movie circuit. 'Phantom' has only been able to generate a small cult of fans over years, but deserves a bigger following.

'Phantom' is a wild mishmash of ideas taken from 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'Faust' and 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' blended together to comment on the music industry. Swan (Paul Williams, who composed all the songs), founder of Death Records, is a mysterious figure. He wants to open a concert hall called the Paradise and decides the perfect music to do it is being created by Winslow Leach (William Finley), who is telling the story of 'Faust' in a cantata. Winslow will soon be living the story after the contract he signs with Swan.

After a month goes by, Winslow breaks into Swan's place and discovers a number of women auditioning with his music. Winslow meets Phoenix (Jessica Harper) and immediately falls in love. He decides she is the only one who can sing his music. After Swan's men dispose of Winslow, he seeks revenge but with tragic results. Not only does an accident occur that damages his face and voice, but he also becomes Swan's prisoner to complete 'Faust'. Swan uses some equipment to create a singing voice for Winslow, which is performed by Williams, leading to a funny in-joke when Swann calls it perfect.

Swan changes his plans and rather than giving the music to Phoenix, he gives it to an outlandish glam rocker named Beef (Gerrit Graham in a wonderfully over-the-top performance). De Palma uses Beef to comment on the sacrifices an artist is expected to make for his audience. Winslow is not happy about the change, leading to the Phantom being unleashed on all who stand in his way.

Williams' songs are a highlight of the film. Previously known for writing pop hits, such as Three Dog Night's "An Old Fashioned Love Song", and the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays," he got to stretch out into other genres and does so very well. The film opens with '50s doo wop, "Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye." "Upholstery" is in the style of the Beach Boys, and "Somebody Super Like You" would have fit well into an Alice Cooper setlist. He also delivers the classic Williams sound with "Old Souls" sung by Harper but could easily have been a hit with Karen Carpenter.

Hopefully, Scream Factory's release of 'Phantom of the Paradise' will lead to a reappraisal of the film. It's got plenty of humor and thrills. And in addition to its Academy Award-nominated song score, the film has a strong directorial hand in De Palma. Not only does he get the cast to commit to these characters, he makes interesting stylistic choices, like the unexpected visual reference to Orson Welles' 'Touch of Evil.'

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Scream Factory has released 'Phantom of the Paradise' on a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc paired with a DVD of additional extras. They are housed in a standard bluecase and come with a slipcover. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The video for 'Phantom of the Paradise' has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC that is displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The print looks clean and has a pleasing amount of grain.

The colors are seen in bright hues right from the get go in the opening credits. Blacks are frequently rich but falter in a couple of instances mentioned below. There are great texture details seen in close-ups and jacket fringe.

During Phoenix's tryout, it looks like a softer focus was intentionally used. During this scene, lights appear with a bit of banding and there's some black crush as singers disappear into the background space. Soft focus on objects and black crush can also be seen in the double exposure shots during "The Phantom's Theme (Beauty and the Beast)".

Other deficiencies can be seen in the split screen with Swann and Phoenix in bed and the Phantom on monitor. When the Phantom learns of Swann's ultimate plan, there is major banding on the red walls, and the multiple images on the monitor lose clarity.

The biggest problem is the traveling mattes that were inserted in post-production (See Swan Song Outtake Footage in the supplements). They can be distracting, particularly during Beef's introduction at the airport, and grow more so when one knows where to look.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio is available in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 and sound free of signs of wear or damage. Dialogue sounds clear, other than the intended distortion when the Phantom speaks. The music sounds great as it fills the surrounds and demonstrates how wide the dynamic range is. The bass supports the music well and also helps the thunder rumble.

Effects are well positioned. When Swan and Winslow work together and Swan speaks over the PA, his voice echoes around the surrounds. During the split screen in the Beach Bums scene, voices are properly positioned on the left side.

The soundtrack is balanced well together, although the music during "Life at Last" sounded louder than Beef's vocals (performed by Raymond Louis Kennedy). The canned applause at the Paradise is flat.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

On Disc 2 (DVD):

  • Paradise Regained (SD, 50 min) – A French making-of documentary, revealed by the closing credits, from a 2005 DVD release featuring director Brian DePalma, producer Edward R. Pressman, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, and the late William Finley.
  • Interview with Paul Williams moderated by Guillermo del Toro (SD, 72 min) – Williams and del Toro discuss the film and Williams' songwriting career.
  • Interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton (SD, 10 min) – Recorded on Dec 9, 2004, Norton discuss the film, revealing where ideas for some of the costumes came and how much she enjoyed working on it.
  • Interview with producer Edward R. Pressman (SD, 19 min) – Pressman talks about the production from the business side, a unique, often overlooked yet no less fascinating aspect.
  • Interview with drummer Gary Mallaber (SD, 17 min) – The musician talks about how he got to work for Williams and in the film.
  • Alvin's Art and Technique (SD, 12 min) – The artist's widow talks about how he created the film poster and shows early drafts. She also plugs her excellent book, 'The Art of John Alvin', which reveals the man behind some of the most famous posters from the '70 through the '90s.
  • Phantom of the Paradise Biography by Gerrit Graham (SD, 10 min) – Audio plays under stills of Graham reading the liner notes he wrote for the 1974 soundtrack album.
  • William Finley and Toy (SD, 1 min) – Finley is seen briefly with his action figure.
  • Radio Spots (Audio Only, 3 min) – Four spots, three of which feature Wolfman Jack
  • TV Spots (SD, 5 min) – Five ads are presented and the audio of some were used for Radio Spots
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 5 min) – Two trailers are included.
  • Still Gallery (SD, 2 min)

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

On Disc 1 (Blu-ray):

  • Audio Commentary – Separate interview sessions are of Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, and the Juicy Fruits (Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Harold Oblong aka Peter Eibling) are edited together for this entertaining rememberance. The Juicy Fruits also do an introduction
  • Interview with director Brian DePalma (HD, 33 min) – The writer/director sits for a discussion about the film in an new interview.
  • Interview with Paul Williams (HD, 35 min) – The actor/composer offers thoughts on his music in 'Phantom' during this new interview.
  • > Interview with Make-up Effects wizard Tom Burman (HD, 4 min) – Burman discusses the creation if the iconic Phantom Helmet,
  • Alternate Takes (HD, 26 min) – There are eleven presented with a Play-All option. A split screen is used to contrast these scenes with the final version used in the film.
  • Swan Song Outtake Footage (HD, 7 min) – Too avoid legal troubles with the record label started by Led Zeppelin, the name Swan Song Records had to be removed. Production designer Jack Fisk introduces the piece showing original footage with the final footage that contained mattes and different cuts
  • Still Gallery (HD, 14 min) – Images of the posters, lobby cards, b&w 8x10 stills, the pressbook, and program promoting the film.

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend Scream Factory's 'Phantom of the Paradise'. The genre-blending film offers a wild ride and the Blu-ray delivers a pleasing high-def viewing experience. The highlight of the set are the special features that give well-deserved recognition to many people who worked on the film.

Technical Specs

  • Region A
  • 50GB Bluray + DVD

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English

Supplements

  • Paradise Regained – documentary on the making of the film featuring director Brian DePalma, Producer Edward R. Pressman, William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and more…
  • Interviews
  • NEW Alvin's Art and Technique – a look at the neon poster
  • NEW Phantom of the Paradise Biography by Gerrit Graham - 1974 Publicity Sheet written by and read by Graham
  • Alternate Takes
  • Swan Song Outtake Footage
  • Radio Spots, TV Spots and Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Exclusive HD Content

  • NEW Audio Commentary with Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and the Juicy Fruits (Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Harold Oblong aka Peter Eibling)
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Production Designer Jack Fisk
  • NEW Interview with director Brian DePalma
  • NEW Interview with Paul Williams talking about the music of PHANTOM
  • NEW Interview with Make-up Effects wizard Tom Burman discussing the Phantom Helmet

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

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