I was just in Denver recently seeing my brother and sister in law and one evening we watched Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” from 1974. It’s silly and campy but I really enjoyed it again after many many years. There are some spoilers below so be warned if you haven’t seen it yet.
I saw it first at a midnight movie when I was probably sixteen and it really freaked me out. The steel teeth really got to me and the plot was so cruel. I think my teenage brain was just going, “What’s happening to this guy is just really unfair!” I may have been a little buzzed on weed at the time too – can’t quite remember but that was a common thing at the midnight movies at that age, which would have only made it worse.
Paul Williams stars as the devil, which is perfect casting. And he has those cool ’70s bangs. I couldn’t place at first who the main actress was till the credits rolled and I realized it was Jessica Harper from Dario Argento’s “Suspiria,” which was one of my favorites when I saw it in the ’80s. (Goofy trailer here). She’s also a very good singer and has some dance moves to match.
“Phantom” has some similarities to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” including a stage performance with a hunk who’s sewn together from various body parts, like Rocky (not Stallone), and a singer, Beef, who’s gay AF.
It’s not high cinema, obviously, but it’s a good guilty pleasure. I think De Palma’s “Carrie,” which came out only two years later, is probably much more skillfully done – and far more frightening. I actually found the poster for “Carrie” so utterly disturbing that I avoided looking at the movie ads all that season when it came out in late ’76. Even now I don’t like watching the pig’s blood scene from that movie. I once turned on a television and that scene popped up with Sissy Spacek and her wide horror-stricken eyes – Holy crap!
If you’re looking for something campy and fun though for Halloween “Phantom of the Paradise” could be a good choice. We just started watching it on a whim and I’m glad we did. Fun stuff!