Phantom of the Paradise, Brian De Palma’s Faustian rock opera, starring William Finley, Paul Williams and Jessica Harper hits Blu-ray today in an amazing 2 disc special edition thanks to the great folks at Scream Factory. The film’s story is a riff on Faust/Phantom of the Opera as Winslow Leach (Finley) an up and coming songwriter sells his soul to the music mega mogul Swan (Williams) after losing his voice and being horribly disfigured. He hopes the pact will get his Cantata produced with the help of the beautiful Phoenix (Harper) who will be his new voice.
While Winslow is in love with Phoenix, Swan sees her as simply another talent to be marketed and capitalized on as we find out Swan is not quite what he seems. The film is a seethingly intelligent take on the music industry and fame in general; with some of the catchiest music you will ever hear thanks to Williams’ compositions.
The transfer used here looks to be sourced from the same restored master, as the new DCP that’s been screening lately and it’s definitely a step up from the previous all region French Blu-ray from 2010. This Scream Factory version has much different contrast and color compared to the French disc; the film looks more lush and bigger thanks to these color corrections. While you can tell the film was vigorously cleaned it also retains a pleasant amount of grain as well, needless to say I was very pleased with the picture on this release.
Click on any of the pics in this review for actual screenshots of the disc.
The sound is probably the only area where the recent Arrow disc still has any foothold. The soundtracks included on the disc is a robust newly remixed 5.1 DTS-HD track and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks which sound amazing, and really add a depth to the music. But sadly the only thing this disc is missing is the isolated music and effects track found on the Arrow disc, but that is only a minor omission compared to what’s next.
As far as special features this is the definitive disc for Phantom fans collecting extras culled from several international releases and finally making them available for the first time for the US audience. First and foremost is the Paradise Regained documentary, a one-hour documentary that originally appeared on the French blu-ray. Far from being simply EPK material this doc is a great look at the film with interviews with all of the principle cast and crew and definitely a must see for fans of the film.
Next up is the hour plus interview with Paul Williams, who not only played Swan but also wrote all the amazing music for the film. The interview moderated by director Guillermo Del Toro, has the perfect balance of peer interest and complete fanboy during the conversation as they cover almost any question you could think of for Williams. If you caught the extras on the Cronos Criterion you know Del Toro is a huge fan of the film, so this pairing made perfect sense and the two appear to have a great rapport with one another. Williams as usual is very candid and thoughtful when discussing his life, career, his triumph over substance abuse and why Phantom is one of the best things that ever happened to him.
Also included is 40 minutes of extended and alternate takes from the film with footage sourced from the vast collection of the Swan Archives, the definitive website for fans of Phantom of the Paradise. Not only do you get the longer cut and alternate take of Winslow’s face being burned by the record press, you also get alternate angles and takes for most of the performances in the film as well. Also new to this particular release is 2 new commentaries one with Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and the Juicy Fruits as well as yet another 30 minute interview with Williams focusing solely on the music in Phantom.
To top the package off, Scream factory also has exclusive to this set a 40-minute interview with Director Brian De Palma who gives some rare insight into the film. Since enough time has passed De Palma is brutally honest about the troubled history of Phantom, the lawsuits, the forced edits and script changes. It’s great to hear him reflect on the film that failed on its initial release and didn’t quite turn out the way he would have liked, but somehow still has a die-hard cult fanbase 40 years later.
This set is flawlessly curated with just about everything a fan like myself could ask for or want from the film. While my only possible nitpick could be that some of the extras are on a DVD and not a Blu-ray. I am still thrilled to death to finally have a definitive version of the film in my collection; especially considering the previous US release was a DVD with a dark transfer and only the trailer as an extra. Scream Factory raises the bar yet again and delivers a definitive edition disc that is a must buy for fans of this cult gem.