P U R D I E’s review published on Letterboxd:
How has this movie evaded me for so long??
I'm a pretty big fan of De Palma (even his stinkers usually throw up a few visual ideas I can get behind) But I'll admit that his pre-Carrie output is pretty much alien to me.
For me, the guy absolutely nails thrillers, so his earlier 'comedies' haven't really enticed me. Phantom though, how to approach this? I only realized it was De Palma at the helm a little while ago and while the idea of him helming a musical didn't excite me, the prospect of the man who directed the Greatest School Dance Massacre in the history of cinema fashioning a horror located entirely inside a rock club, did. Very much so.
Sadly, despite De Palma firing on all cylinders, he isn't flexing his muscle with the confidence he would later become known for. Visually, Phantom is all over the place, never fully exploiting the potential of The Paradise as a location.
Utilizing split-screens to depict multiple characters plotting behind the scenes would become a De Palma trademark and should be the perfect fit for this tale of a Phantom stalking the patrons of a gaudy rock club, but alas, it was a wasted opportunity.
Despite the contained club setting, De Palma only uses split-screen once, during a complex sequence involving a rehearsal and a bomb, and even then he doesn't direct the scene with enough flair to generate any tension. It would be another year before he could pull that trick off, via Carrie. This is a recurring problem. De Palma fills the movie with great idea's, but his delivery is often sloppy and unconvincing.
Phantom is still a fun movie though, if an extremely messy one.
The performances are way over the top, and the songs are dreadful but it's energetic, gaudy, crude and very, very funny. It's hard not to get caught up in it's drug-fueled lunacy & I spent a good portion of the movie lamenting my sobriety in comparison.
Phantom of the Paradise is the perfect Rock'n'Roll fable, built for inebriated Friday night's. Probably one act too long, but so are most parties and nothing this crazy can maintain it's momentum forever.
Extra half a star for featuring a character called Beef.