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Phantom of the Paradise [Blu-ray]
(Brian De Palma, 1974)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Harbor Productions
Video: Opening / Arrow Films
Region: FREE!/ Region 'B' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:31:30.750 / 1:31:36.365
Disc Size: 24,929,993,151 bytes/ 46,700,229,197 bytes
Feature Size: 21,173,213,184 bytes / 30,643,160,640 bytes
Video Bitrate: 24.95 Mbps / 34.78 Mbps
Chapters: 8 / 12
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Case
Release date: December 1st, 2009 / February 24th, 2014
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps /23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1961 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1961 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio French 2103 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2103 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps /
NOTE: With the English language selected the French subtitles are non-removable via the pop-up menu but during the film press the subtitles button on your remote to select "subtitles off" OR change the audio to 'English' - however, the French subtitles are forced on the special features)
English (SDH), none
Extras (have non-removable French subtitles and are in PAL - not playable on some Region 'A' Blu-ray players):
• Gerrit Graham ('Beef') introduction (in French - :50)
• Featurette: Paradise Regained (50:14)
• 2 Trailers
• Piece with Rosanna Norton on the costumes (9:38)
•Action Figure advert mock-up (0:35)
Music and Effects soundtrack
Description: A Faustain Rock Opera version of Phantom Of The Opera. Record producer Swan (Paul Williams) absconds with both the music and the female, Phoenix (Jessica Harper), from the composer Winslow Leach (William Finley). Disfigured by an injection-molding pressing plant, and now mask-donning, Leach plots revenge on Swan and his anticipated rock concert palace, The Paradise, by transforming onto 'The Phantom'. Leach signs a contract with Swan to complete the rock opera based on the life of Faust with Phoenix to star. Leach exacts his vengeance, Hunchback of Notre Dame style, when he is double crossed by Swan who instead hires pill-popping feminine male glam-rock prima donna Beef (Gerrit Graham).
Brian De Palma s inspired rock n roll fusion of Faust, The Phantom of
the Opera and
The Picture of Dorian Gray
boasts an Oscar-nominated score by Paul Williams, who also stars as an
evil record producer who not only steals the work of composer/performer
Winslow Leach (William Finley) but gets him locked up in Sing Sing - and
that s not the worst that happens to him along the way.
Despite the dread MOR dirges given to Harper's crooning ingenue, arguably De Palma's finest film. A highly inventive updating of the Phantom of the Opera story to the rockbiz world - complete with borrowings from Faust and The Picture of Dorian Gray - it tells of rock composer Finley's desire for revenge after he is cheated by a nightclub and record label mogul (Williams). Nothing that remarkable about the plot in itself, but De Palma employs his love of gadgetry to imaginative effect (making terrific use of split screens and video technology), and casts a satirically beady eye upon the money-hungry foibles of the music industry. Best, in fact, is the cameo by Gerrit Graham as the camp, 'Producers'-style glamrock star, although Memmoli's world-weary manager and the piss-take of Alice Cooper are also memorable.
This looks like a very good HD representation of the 1974 film "The Phantom of the Paradise". This Blu-ray is very clean (no damage) and there is visible grain. It is vastly superior to the out-of-print DVD and flesh tones and other colors look true and un-manipulated. There is no DNR that I can identify but noise exists. It looks like strong facsimile of the film. It is only single-layered but seems to do the job well with good contrast and surprising detail. It's AVC, 24 fps and 1080P - it looks quite pleasing.
The new Arrow is certainly different in terms of colors and contrast. The Arrow has a significantly more robust technical transfer, is also darker and shows more information in the frame. I really don't know if the darker look is more theatrically accurate - it does seems to obscure detail in certain scenes but I would more lean to the Opening transfer being brightened, if I was forced to guess. Skin tones are generally warmer but lines are tighter and contrast seems more layered but frequently crushed. It can look quite poor at times. You can judge for yourself below.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
It is not the most separated 5.1 DTS-HD Master track you will hear but at 1961 kbps it reports responsive bass and high-end in the many musical numbers. The original 2.0 channel stereo is not offered and there is also a lossless French DUB (but the music singing lyrics are NOT DUBB'ed). As we stated above the subtitles are not removable during the film but can be manipulated (removed) by pressing the 'subtitles' button on your remote to select "subtitles off" while it is playing. This is also true of the audio selection. However, the French subtitles are forced (non-removable) on the special features. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
Arrow should get kudos for replicating the original 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System) audio with a robust DTS-HD Master at 2906 kbps. It supports the, often rambunctious, effects as well as all of Paul Williams' award winning music from Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye to The Phantom's Theme to The Hell Of It. It sounds super. Arrow include a linear PCM 2.0 channel option and the ability to access the film's isolated music and effects soundtrack - also via lossless. There are optional English subtitles and the Arrow Blu-ray is region 'B'-locked.
There are some good supplements - all in English but the 50-second Gerrit Graham ('Beef') introduction. Paradise Regained runs 50 minutes as a kind of retro-look making of with Williams, De Palma and other involved with the production reminiscing about how things we done. I suspect this was made in the past 5 years or so. There are 2 Trailers, a 10-minute piece with Rosanna Norton on the costumes and a faux Action Figure advert for 35-seconds. Good stuff as I doubt anyone would ever consent to a commentary.
The Arrow has some of the same extras as the 'Opening'Blu-ray - the extensive Paradise Regained documentary on the making of the film featuring director Brian De Palma, producer Edward R. Pressman, the late star William Finley, star and composer Paul Williams, co-stars Jessica Harper and Gerrit Graham. The Arrow's is in HD (as are all their video extras) running over 50-minutes. The UK disc also includes the same archive interview with costume designer Rosanna Norton - running 10-minutes and the 35-second William Finley on the Phantom doll piece. What they add is an all new 72-minute interview with Paul Williams by Guillermo del Toro in 108)P. It is extremely interesting and I always enjoy del Toro. We also get the 11-minute The Swan Song Fiasco - a new video piece exploring the changes made to the film in postproduction and Paradise Lost and Found: which has 13.5-minutes of alternate takes and bloopers from the cutting room floor. There are Original Trailers, Radio Spots and a gallery. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress and a liner notes Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth and an exploration of the film s troubled marketing history by Ari Kahan, curator of SwanArchives.org, illustrated with original stills and promotional material. They also include the aforementioned isolated score.
The film was shown on area IMAX screens in the 90s. A 2006 fan-organized festival, dubbed 'Phantompalooza', reunited the original cast and featured a concert by Paul Williams in the very theatre where the film played during its original run (Wikipedia).
This is a highly memorable film that has immense re-watchability. It's at the higher echelon for cool, cheesy fun and is deeply rooted in nostalgia. For many on our DVDBeaver ListServ this is their favorite De Palma film. I should note that the Blu-ray cover on Amazon.FR is not accurate - although it is not far off. For some this is one of the most important releases of the year with its ability to transport you back to the mid 70's.
Iwill remain non-committal on the video as I never saw Phantom of the Paradise theatrically but the general consensus is that it is... well, poorly received. Others who have seen it theatrically think the Opening is more as they remember the film in a cinema. Everything else goes Arrow's way without much argument. The Opening extras have forced French subtitles and offer significantly less than the Arrow (with almost 2 hours of new material, including an isolated score and liner notes booklet). The Arrow have included the original 4-track audio as well - another mark in their favor. Great fun to see this - I could watch it every 6 months and always see something to enjoy. The Arrow Blu-ray package has some value - regardless of how you feel about the video appearance.
December 21st, 2009
February 15th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze