Phantom of the Paradise (1974): De Palma’s Horror Rock Opera

In 1974, Brian De Palma directed Phantom of the Paradise, a movie that defies easy categorization due to its blend–not always effective–of rock opera, gory horror, and some dark satire.

Our Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Scored by and starring Paul Williams, the tale centers on a disfigured composer who writes music for a woman he loves. However, a record producer betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise. Betrayed, the composer dons a new appearance and exacts revenge on the producer.

The story is a loosely adapted mixture of Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Faust by Goethe/Christopher Marlowe.

The story begins when music composer-singer-songwriter Winslow Leach is heard by acclaimed record producer Swan as Winslow plays an original composition following a set run through by the 1950s-style nostalgia band ‘The Juicy Fruits,’ which Swan produces. Swan believes Winslow’s music perfect to open “The Paradise.” his new concert hall, and commands right-hand man Arnold Philbin to steal it.

Initially dismissed by critics, the movie was a box office failure, but over the years it has received a better response.

De Palma would earn critical recognition and commercial popularity with his next movie, Carrie.


William Finley as Winslow Leach/The Phantom
Paul Williams as The Phantom’s singing voice
Paul Williams as Swan
Jessica Harper as Phoenix
Gerrit Graham as Beef
Raymond Louis Kennedy as Beef’s singing voice
George Memmoli as Arnold Philbin (Mary Philbin starred as Christine in the 1925 film of Phantom of the Opera)
Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, and Peter Elbling  as The Juicy Fruits / The Beach Bums / The Undead
Rod Serling (uncredited) as introductory voice
Janus Blythe as Groupie


F/X showed the movie on March 31, 2020.