Swan's Video Surveillance Center : Currently Viewing Monitor 1
Twentieth Century Fox, for all the fanfare, had nothing to do with making Phantom of the Paradise. Brian De Palma and Ed Pressman assembled the funding from a variety of investors, and made the film without studio interest, involvement or support, in hopes that when it was completed they'd find a buyer for it, and be able to pay back their investors. Fox, desperately hopeful of courting the rock'n'roll youth audience, won a fierce bidding war for the distribution rights in July of 1974 (see their announcement in Variety here), paying about $2 million, a record at the time for an independent film. Fox was so enthusiastic about their new purchase that, only weeks later, they inked a deal to produce The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which they imagined would be an excellent followup. With Phantom's release date scheduled for October, Fox had only about three months to put their marketing campaign in place in time for the premiere. The rush to release Phantom was due in part to concern that, if they waited too long, the highly anticipated Tommy might steal their thunder. Although producer Ed Pressman remained concerned about this as the release date approached, it turned out that Tommy went way over schedule. Phantom director of photography, Larry Pizer, wrote to reassure Pressman as Phantom's release date approached, saying of Tommy director Ken Russell, "No competition from this director...No dialogue, so it's not because of people forgetting lines!" Fox went balls to the wall with their promotion, but the film tanked in most places anyway. (For our views as to why Fox's campaign was agonizingly misguided, see our Promotion page.) By the time Phantom bombed at the box office, Fox's Rocky was already in production, and it was too late for the studio to turn back. (At about the same time Phantom was released in the US, the cast of Rocky was in the UK filming Eddie's death by pickaxe.)
The film's intertextual nature is announced by Rod Serling's narration, which of course immediately brings to mind his work on The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery anthology series. Because the self-important tone of the foreshadowing narration is in itself a spoof of Serling's own trademark style, we understand right away that Phantom is going to be repurposing familiar tropes. While nothing that Serling says is inherently funny, the mere fact that he, of all people, is doing the narration is, we have always thought, a wink at a media-savvy audience. (Recently, though, Mr. De Palma told us that he used Serling just because "He has a great voice!") At the same time, Serling's imposing baritone, and all it portends, lends the film gravitas: Serling obviously understood that he was being asked to spoof his own persona, and was willing (for $500) to go along with it (in what unfortunately turned out to be one of his last professional engagements before he died in 1975). Clearly, if Rod Serling is willing to make fun of himself for the sake of this film, we understand, this is going to be something singular. Finally, even before things are properly underway, we are reminded (as we will be many times during the course of the film) that we are watching a movie: that is, Serling's very presence takes us out of the film. While an anonymous narrator would have given us nothing to focus on but the story he tells, the fact that it's Serling -- and that he's out of his familiar context -- surprises us. His voice is that much more of a surprise because he was uncredited. In a single stroke, the use of Rod Serling's voice (whether intentionally or not) declares the film's intentions to parody pop culture, to play with our expectations, and to distance us from the action, in Brechtian fashion, as a means of encouraging the audience to reflect on their own reactions to the media with which they're presented, and their own co-option by it, rather than (or in addition to) being swept away in the story. The choice of Serling is also interesting for its parallels with Winslow's (and to some extent De Palma's own) backstory: Serling had spent the better part of his life elevating the quality of television, and attempting in his stories, and in the face of the networks' preference for conformity and comfort, to address thorny, provocative issues like racism and the war through science fiction and fantasy-based metaphors. Serling insisted on treating his shows as art, while producing them within the confines and conventions of commercial TV. He was forever pushing at the edges of censorship, and, like the less-successful Winslow, fighting for the integrity of his vision. We think Phantom would have been a film close to his heart.
Serling's narration is intentionally misleading, and typical of De Palma's preoccupation with confounding expectations: We are told we are about to experience the story of the "sound of the spheres": "The man who made it, the girl who sang it, and the monster who stole it." Because this offering is made on the heels of Swan being described in the most reverential possible tone, we assume that he is the man responsible for this sound, and that the "monster" is the Phantom. Of course, this is not the case. Indeed, the true "Phantom" of the Paradise is Swan, not Winslow: It is Swan who is rarely seen, never photographed, and who invisibly manipulates everything from behind the scenes. Giles' opening narration in Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor's screenplay for The Shape of Water, which narration Mr. del Toro told us is "100% based on Phantom's," is to similar effect: "Or would I tell you about her? The princess without voice...Or perhaps I would just warn you of the about the truth of these facts and the tale of love and loss and the monster that tried to destroy it all..." Just as De Palma's monster is Swan, and not the Phantom, Del Toro's "monster" is not the creature, but Strickland.
Serling's narration makes reference to Swan's wanting to build "his own Xanadu", which is of course a loud shout-out to Citizen Kane. Swan, like Kane, creates a media empire, and builds an opera house in which to foist his chosen artists on the public, with the PR support only he can buy. Swan, like Kane, is fabulously wealthy, but mysterious and secretive, hiding his true self, and presenting only a constructed persona for public view, his image carefully controlled via the media he dominates. De Palma's gradual reveal of Swan (beginning with his hands) parallels Welles' gradual exposure of Kane (which also started with one of his hands, as, dying, he dropped the snowglobe). Kane and Swan are both mysteries for the audience to gradually unravel, as more information is slowly revealed. Phantom, as will be discussed later on, makes a number of allusions to various of Welles' works.
The dead songbird motif runs ("it practically gallops!") through the film. Swan and Phoenix are of course both named after birds, and the Phantom wears a bird-like mask. Beef performs with a birdlike tail. Phoenix seems to wear a lot of feathers, and Swan's shirts often feature bird prints. We at the Archives believe that the decision to emphasize this theme was made quite late in the film's development, as names for the Swan character that appear in earlier versions of the script (like "Dorian," a heavyhanded reference to the Dorian Gray subplot, and "Spectre," an equally crass allusion to Phil Spector, upon whom the character was clearly modeled) are not bird-related. One of De Palma's earliest short films was called Icarus, a reference to the Greek myth in which the overly ambitious Icarus, using wings made of wax and feathers built for him by his father, flew too high, against his father's advice, only to have his wings melted by the sun's heat...in his giddy attempt to get closer to heaven, Icarus plummeted to his death in the sea. In Phantom, similarly, the three "birds of a feather," Winslow, Swan and Phoenix, are all, in the end, done in by their own greedy ambition and narcissism. More literally, Swan's dead sparrow logo (and of course his label's name, "Death Records") is a tipoff that something about Swan's operation might not be altogether wholesome. As well, the dead bird theme is a riff on Psycho, in which Hitchcock had used stuffed birds as signposts of death, and of course killed off the avian-named Marion Crane early on. Just as Norman Bates' collection of taxidermy signaled that Ms. Crane was doomed to be added to his collection of "dead birds," so in Phantom does the dead songbird logo portend the story's unhappy ending. Or, what the hell, maybe De Palma just likes birds: in his film Home Movies, the family that was to a great degree a stand-in for his own was named Byrd.
If you watch the film on a North American or Japanese VHS or DVD, Goodbye Eddie is in the key of G, and the film is 92 minutes long. If you watch on European media, the song is in G sharp, and the movie is only 88 minutes long. This is not because there's four minutes of footage "missing" from the European edition of the film. It's because European DVDs and VHS tapes are in the PAL format, which actually runs slightly faster than the 24 frames per second on which the film was originally shot, due to weirdness in the film-to-video conversion process. So European PAL format VHS tapes and DVDs sound a little "chipmunky" to people who are accustomed to seeing the movie projected from film in a theater, or on North American video equipment, as all the songs are a half step higher than they "ought" to be.
The movie's title changed during production, from Phantom of the Fillmore to Phantom, and finally to Phantom of the Paradise. (The accounting unit of Harbor Productions set up to manage the production, P.O.F. Productions, as shown on this original film processing runcard, is of course an abbreviation of the original title.) The "Fillmore" name was abandoned mid-production when it became clear that rights to the name couldn't be obtained from Bill Graham. Phantom was the working title right up to the last minute, as reflected by this pre-release title sequence showing the interim title. 20th Century Fox, though, after purchasing distribution rights, became concerned about possible conflict with the King Features comic strip "Phantom", and forced the change in title. This required changing the promotional art, as well; here is what it was to look like prior to "of the Paradise" being added. In that original art, you can also see a couple of swans on either side of Paul Williams' face. These swans were transformed to stars in the final version of the art...you can read all about this (probably more than you'd ever want to know), on our Swan Song Fiasco page. For what it's worth, we think changing the name to eliminate reference to the Fillmore was probably for the best, as it extricated the film from ties to a particular place and particular reality.
De Palma had originally hoped to get a major band like the Rolling Stones to write the score and play the Juicy Fruits, but of course, as he put it, "you couldn't even get them on the telephone." Using the retro band Sha Na Na was an intervening idea, but eventually through a combination of Sha Na Na not working out and Paul Williams preferring to put together a band that he could manipulate through multiple styles of music, the Hahn/Oblong/Comanor trio was assembled. (On this early script page, the Juicy Fruits were referred to as "Sha Na Na"). Comanor was brought in by Williams, and De Palma, at Bill Finley's urging, went to see Harold Oblong performing in the New York production of "Lemmings" (playing the part that had been John Belushi's before Belushi left to join the Not Ready for Prime Time Players), and hired him away. Oblong, in turn, brought in his friend Archie Hahn, who sings lead on "Eddie". Oblong and Hahn had backgrounds which were for the most part in improvisational comedy, though they had musical talent as well. The three rehearsed their numbers off by themselves, and then brought fully realized performances to De Palma, who focused on finding interesting ways to shoot them. The musicians pretending to play in the background were Dave Garland on keys, Art Munson on guitar, Colin Cameron on bass, and Gary Mallaber (misspelled as "Mallabar" on the soundtrack liner notes) on drums. Garland, Munson and Mallaber actually played on the soundtrack but, except for Mallaber (who played on every track), it's impossible to determine who played on which song, as the original recordings were done as several separate sessions, with different players on different songs.
De Palma shot "Goodbye Eddie Goodbye" over the course of several takes on December 10, 1973 at a Dallas club called Travis Street Electric. (Travis Electric was closed Mondays, so the production had the place for the one day.) If you look carefully, you can see that Harold Oblong has some chewing gum in his left ear, and Jeff Comanor has a green comb sticking out of his back pocket. We have some nice outtakes of this number here, here and here. You can read more about our Outtakes collection here. The Juicy Fruits' performance of "Goodbye Eddie Goodbye" is one of relatively few sequences De Palma shot "conventionally", meaning "with coverage". In contrast to most other directors, De Palma shoots nearly everything only from the angles that he knows he will ultimately use, and has, generally, storyboarded out. So, for example, when filming a conversation between two people, most directors will shoot close-ups of each of the participants' entire side of the conversation, including their reactions as the other speaks, and will also shoot a medium shot of the two participants' entire conversation, as well as "over the shoulder" shots of each participant from just behind the other, and then allow the editor to choose at which points in the conversation to cut back and forth between these various angles for maximum dramatic impact, and to avoid moments in which insects fly into the performers' mouths. De Palma, in contrast, will generally shoot each portion of a scene only from the angle he thinks will be most interesting for the particular moment, and eschews, most of the time, rote cutting back and forth between the characters. Rather, he tends to frame them in relation to their relative power in the situation, in a manner that highlights or accentuates their psychological or motivational distances from (or closeness to) one another, or in a way that, by placement of the camera, comments on the relationship of the characters or the subject of their conversation, or which places the audience in the perspective of one of the characters. De Palma makes extensive use of point of view shots, shots from above, Dutch angles, and the motion of the camera to overlay editorial commentary on the action. For "Goodbye Eddie Goodbye", however, he used the standard three-camera setup. One camera focused on lead singer Hahn, the second followed backup singers Elbling and Comanor, and the third covered the action with a wide shot of the entire stage. This allowed De Palma and editor Paul Hirsch the luxury of choosing, later, which angles to use at what points. By avoiding "reaction shots" of an enthusiastic onscreen audience, as would be typical of most directors (so that the movie theater audience is cued as to how they're "supposed to" feel about the band), De Palma leaves us in the dark about whether we're supposed to think the Juicy Fruits are a terrific act, or hapless clowns, and then has Swan relieve the tension (for us as well as the onscreen audience) by clapping his approval in the awkward pause following their performance.
"Goodbye Eddie Goodbye" is of course a mashup of "dead rock star / last kiss songs," with elements of Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve", Wayne Cochran's "Last Kiss" (later covered by "Goodbye" Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam), and the like. While exaggerating the ridiculous sentimentality and emo romanticism of these songs, it simultaneously introduces Phantom's critical point of view, which is that consumers, and our pop culture, choose not necessarily what is meritorious, but rather respond to the often crass and manipulative selling of the artist and their persona. In Goodbye Eddie, the satire is directed at the phenomenon of the artist's death, alone, pushing record sales and transforming an average performer overnight, in the mind of the public, into a sainted genius, particularly when his demise is cannily exploited by the marketers. At the same time, it serves to introduce several of the major thematic elements of the film: self-destruction, ambition, the singleminded pursuit of fame, and Winslow's sacrifice of his art for his love of Phoenix (as Eddie sacrifices himself and his art for the sake of his beloved sister's operation.) Thematically, Phantom treats pop music, generally, as a metaphor for the ultimate failure and corruption of the revolution of the 1960s, which De Palma had just witnessed firsthand. In 1969, as De Palma sat down to pen the first draft of Phantom's script, it was clear that the establishment, in the form of Nixon, and with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, was reasserting itself, and that all that was left of the revolution and ethos of the '60s was what could be commercialized: t-shirts with Che Guevara's face on them, and mass-produced Warhol prints. Winslow and Phoenix both, as we first meet them, have a bit of a '60s feel about them: Winslow with his long hair and lofty, idealistic view of the power of music; and Phoenix, who dresses like an unusually tasteful Grateful Dead fan and, at least at first, embodies the independent, self-directed free spirit afforded by the then-still-newsworthy women's movement. Both will be chewed up by the system, personified by Swan, with Winslow losing his long hair (and idealism), and Phoenix trading her jaunty fedora and hep threads to be bound, at film's end, in the time-honored symbol of female servitude: a wedding dress (albeit not the most traditional style). Phoenix, who "turns to the dark side" as soon as she is plied with fame and drugs, is the classic hippie-turned-yuppie, before there was such a thing. In a delicious irony, Winslow, like Eddie, finds "success" only in death: Phoenix, who had responded with revulsion when he tried to tell her the ugly truth about Swan, seems only to finally understand his devotion to her, and what he had sacrificed for her, as he (spoiler alert!) dies in her arms.
The Juicy Fruits' performance, which features a (relatively mild) sexual assault on an audience member (played by Andrea Rovillo), is a precursor of the more brutal-yet-PG-safe staged audience interactions to come, and serves to illustrate the fans' sheeplike relationship with the artists Swan has forced down their collective throat: being molested by a greasy Juicy Fruit is apparently a good thing. (Swan is perhaps best viewed as a precursor to Fox "News," and corporate-sponsored media in general, whose sheeplike viewers accept propaganda passing for information at face value, even as its talking heads endlessly inform them that they are enjoying the benefits of an actual functioning free press.) At the song's end, lead singer Archie Hahn (who does not actually have a Puerto Rican accent -- it was Paul Williams' idea that he adopt one for the song) comically pantomimes Eddie's suicide. This presages the more serious carnage to come, suggesting that the audience is hungry for such antics. If a simulated death onstage is fun, surely the real thing will be even more crowd-pleasing. The actors playing the Juicy Fruits will appear later in the form of a surf band (called the Juicy Fruits in the body of the film, but referred to as the Beach Bums in the closing credits and on the soundtrack album), and as the Undeads, a goth band. The fact that the same actors are used to play all three bands is not mere economy. The implication is that Swan just cynically repackages his old offerings with a new coat of paint and foists them on the public again and again, rather than offering anything truly novel, challenging, or creative. (We'll have more to say about this later.) The band's very name, The Juicy Fruits, seems intended to call to mind "Bubble Gum" -- harmless corporate pop music intended as gateway rock for girls in training bras. While we can criticize Swan for foisting this crap, there is equal blame for the audience, which enthusiastically laps it up, over and over, seemingly without question. Indeed, one of the refreshing and strikingly original and daring moves Phantom makes is to be intentionally and unapologetically critical of its own audience, and to refuse to allow that audience to, with smug superiority, hold the onscreen audience in contempt. In the Juicy Fruits' onscreen audience, we do not see the rubes who filled the onscreen seats in King Kong or The Elephant Man, nor the hateful scum that failed to appreciate Kelly and O'Connor's performance of "Fit as a Fiddle" in Singin' in the Rain, nor the universally evil audience that (until the end) collectively imprisoned Truman in his Show. In Phantom, the onscreen audience is indistinguishable from the one in the theater, and complicit in Swan's dictatorial grip on their (our) tastes.
Because of the Swan Song Fiasco (details on this page of our site) an ugly optical reading "The Juicy Fruits" has been placed over the Majestic's marquee, which had originally said "Swan Song". A deleted sequence featuring a beautiful crane shot that lowered from the offending marquee to reveal Winslow pasting his banner over the Juicy Fruits' billboard (which you can see on our site here) was replaced in the final cut by an ugly and abrupt cut from the marquee to Winslow's act of vandalism. In the deleted footage, we can see that the billboard featured the same greaser caricature as appears on the Juicy Fruits' bass drumhead and pasted to the side of their piano...a nice bit of Jack Fisk production design. (The caricature bears a passing resemblance to Harold Oblong, but we have no idea if it was intended to.) As discussed more fully on our Swan Song Fiasco page, this is the first of several modifications made to the film just before release to remove the "Swan Song" verbiage, and, at the same time, unfortunately, destroy a recurring motif in which a shot would open framing something with "Swan Song" on it, and then back or pan away to show the surrounding environment. One of the effects of all this last-minute mutilation of the film was that it lost the "Swan is everywhere" feel it would otherwise have had. Winslow's banner-pasting escapade was filmed in front of the Majestic Theater, the interior of which, later in the film, will serve as the Paradise's auditorium; but, as mentioned earlier, De Palma actually shot the Juicy Fruits' performance in an entirely different venue, the Phantasmagoria Club. If you look closely at the deleted crane shot, you'll see that there's a one-sheet for The Sting in the poster case in the background. At the time Phantom was being filmed, the Majestic Theater had been scheduled for demolition (which thankfully never happened), and was not being used as a performance hall. Although movies weren't being shown there, its owner, ABC Interstate, maintained office and storage space in the building. And the Medallion Theater, also in Dallas, was also an ABC Interstate Theater, and was, at the time Phantom was being shot, showing The Sting. So apparently the Interstate group was using the poster case space at the (nonfunctioning) Majestic to advertise their exhibition of The Sting across town. The Majestic, incidentally, truly was "majestic" in its time: it played host during its vaudeville heyday to such performers as Mae West, Houdini, and Bob Hope. It's now listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and, since being reopened in 1983, has been a venue for live performances: plays, musicals, and concerts. There's a Jim Carrey film, appropriately called The Majestic, in which Carrey's character rebuilds a dilapidated movie house. The fictional theater in that film, however, is no relation to the Dallas theater used for Phantom; it was a set built in Ferndale, California specifically for the Carrey film.
Swan is hiding here behind a mirror. Swan doesn't look good in photographs, which presumably show him in his true (aged) form. More allegorically, in a film which is concerned with behind-the-scenes manipulation (of images, of careers, and of people), this is the first of hundreds of examples of images being manipulated, and hiding behind one another, whether in mirrors, on television screens, or as a result of Swan's machinations (for example, presenting the same band in three different guises, or altering Winslow's electronic voice to sound like Swan's own). In addition, hiding Swan behind a mirror now allows him to be introduced later to comic effect, after his power has been established, as the opposite of what we might expect: a veritable hobbit. Standing to our left of Swan's mirrored box is Herb Pacheco, who played Swan's unnamed bodyguard and the would-be assassin of Swan's would-be bride. Pacheco was in real life a member of Paul Williams' entourage, and even accompanied Williams to Phantom's world premiere in Los Angeles. He's seen throughout the film fulfilling a bodyguard role (later, he'll carry Winslow out of Swanage on his back, keep a watchful eye on the pool of reporters at the airport, and of course accidentally shoot Philbin. Oops.) Next to Pacheco is Mary Margaret Amato. (If we were lame enough to have a MySpace page, she'd be on our "persons we'd most like to meet" list...) She played the Death Records receptionist, and is seen later in many other scenes: she shows up (in the purple blouse) as part of Swan's entourage in the balcony during Beef's rehearsal; with Philbin in Beef's dressing room; at Phoenix's audition; with Philbin as he line-checks at the Paradise; and, in a fetching red leotard, as Philbin extinguishes the flames on Beef's corpse. Immediately to our right of the mirror is James Bohan, who had recently appeared in De Palma's pal George Lucas' American Grafitti, and who shows up throughout Phantom as "the greaser who gets all the good lines." He's the guy at the top of the stairs at the audition ("What's this, a boyfriend?"), and also promises to escort Winslow to the nearest department store. We'll see him onstage at Swan's wedding to Phoenix, too.
In our first glimpse of Swan, we only see his gloved hands. The gloves appear to have been designed to resemble those worn by Werner Krauss, as Dr. Caligari, in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Playing this scene from Swan's point of view, as Philbin entreaties him to help solve Philbin's problems with Annette, echoes the opening scenes of The Godfather, which had been released two years earlier, in which we saw from the powerful Don Corleone's perspective as the toadying Bonasera implored him to provide his assistance. Philbin, like Bonasera, wants someone hurt. (De Palma is very literally comparing the people who run entertainment conglomerates to mafia kingpins; suggesting they're thugs, essentially. In early drafts of the script, there was a scene with Annette being attacked by Swan's hooligans in a dentist's office, and having her tongue removed, to ensure that she would never sing again.) As well, we in the audience are encouraged to see the world from Swan's subjective point of view, and to align our outlook with his: this will make it easier for us to accept, in a few minutes, that Winslow's music is the work of a genius (because Swan obviously regards it as such), and to see Winslow, at least initially, as a foppish dork whose own needs can be disregarded in favor of Swan's. Incidentally, it's obvious why Swan instantly falls in love with "Faust": Swan is enamored of anything that has to do with himself, and the story of "Faust" is his own life story. Swan's lonely clapping is evocative of Welles' Kane's, when he stubbornly leads the intimidated audience in their applause for his wife's disastrous operatic debut.
Philbin (his first name was Arnold) was named for Mary Philbin, who played Christine in the Lon Chaney version of Phantom of the Opera. Despite his apparent dissatisfaction with the turns his relationship with Annette has taken, he's wearing an Annette t-shirt. There's a moment here in Philbin's monologue in which feedback, ostensibly from the theater's sound system (but surely added in postproduction), conveniently intrudes to mask a word of his dialogue so that the film can retain its PG rating. We love the so-very-De Palma multiplaning touch of having the Juicy Fruits set struck in the background, and Winslow taking the stage, as Philbin talks in the foreground, and Swan sits "behind" us, all in one continuous take. And we like the voiceover of the public address system, informing us that Winslow is, humiliatingly, playing during a 20-minute "intermission" between Juicy Fruits performances. (We've read plot summaries that people have posted on the 'net that suggest that Winslow is "crashing" the Juicy Fruits' show, but of course that's ridiculous. He wouldn't have had the assistance of the stagehands, much less a dressing room, had that been the case.) Even in the background, and out of focus, we begin to get an idea of Winslow's obsessive nature, as Bill Finley fastidiously neatly folds Winslow's coat, and carefully arranges his sheet music before he starts to play. Ridiculously, in what is supposed to be a first rate venue, Winslow is, again humiliatingly, playing on a crappy spinet piano that still has the Juicy Fruits logo pasted to the side of it (though of course the sound we hear on the soundtrack is that of a nice studio grand). (Admittedly, the piano can't be a full size upright, or the 360 degree pans around Winslow as he played wouldn't have worked: had the keyboard been taller, we wouldn't have been able to see his face when the camera circled behind it.) George Memmoli, as Philbin, is so riveting that we barely notice that behind him, as he performs a continuous one-and-a-half minute, single-take monologue, the audience leaves, the stage is re-set, and Winslow sets up and begins to play, his timing perfectly coordinated with the end of Philbin's speech. We particularly like the daring choice to rack-focus down onto Winslow at the last moment of this long take; we wonder how many takes were perfect up until the shift in focus at the end.
"Faust" starts with the line, "I was not myself last night," which of course will also be the first line of the Beach Bums' bastardized take on the song, "Upholstery". It's tempting to suggest that Winslow's thick glasses are a metaphor for his blindness to what is going on around him, but, in fact, Bill Finley's eyesight really needs the help. We have no idea how he managed to get through the later scenes, as the Phantom, in which he couldn't wear them under the helmet (contact lenses?), especially because, in many of the "helmet" scenes, Director of Photography Larry Pizer was shining a small bright light directly into Winslow's eye, so it would be sufficiently well lit to be visible to the camera. The drawing on Winslow's shirt is of Erik Satie, an eccentric (to say the least) French pianist and composer who lived around the turn of the 20th century and who, like Winslow, held a fairly lofty view of his own music's artistic importance. We're not sure what's on the sheet music in front of him, but it has no relationship at all to what he's playing and singing. Winslow is performing to a hall that's essentially empty but for the floorsweeper, and at one point he nods in a "hey, my brother" gesture to the guy, as if he's desperate for any sort of human contact or acknowledgment at all. Nice touch. As Winslow plays, De Palma has the camera circle him, which emphasizes just how alone Winslow is...both physically and metaphorically, we think. He's in his own little world, in which everything revolves around him, and of course nobody (but Swan) is listening to his song. De Palma will use more quickly circling cameras later in his career to isolate characters and emphasize how caught up they are in their own dizzying experience: a couple of years later in Carrie, as Carrie dances with Tommy Ross at the prom, to heighten the sense that they are caught up in their moment, oblivious to everything else, and in the final moments of Obsession, as well. In Phantom, it also continues a recurring snaky, circuitous circularity theme (announced initially by the rotating dead sparrow during Rod Serling's monologue), which shows up in so much of the camera work later on. As Winslow starts the final chorus, he's joined by something doing a pretty good imitation of a pipe organ. We really like that here, but it's not in the mix that was used for the soundtrack album. Of course, the purpose that it performs in the film -- to heighten the self-important emotionalism of Winslow's dedication to his music while simultaneously drowning out his sensitive playing with brash overproduction as a foreshadowing of what will be done to his music later -- would probably be out of place on a freestanding soundtrack album. Particularly in this last chorus, Bill Finley is really gilding the lily here, overemoting like a coked-up Sally Field. The intrusion of the organ and the fancy camerawork also contribute to the artificiality and heightened reality that permeates so much of De Palma's work: rather than trying to establish a gritty cinema verite sense of reality, as was so popular in the seventies, De Palma is doing everything he can to emphasize that we are watching an opera, or a cartoon: a representation of life in which we can expect more archetypes than characters, and more metaphor than story. This is also reflected in the lighting, which, throughout the film, creates a brightly colored, high-contrast feel, and in the frequent intrusions of cartoony drawings of swans and sparrows into wipes and other transitions between scenes, which together evoke the feel of a comic book. Later films, like Dick Tracy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, will use similar techniques to accomplish similar purposes. (Scott Pilgrim also borrows from Phantom the using-audio-feedback-to-mask-non-PG-safe-language trick.)
Winslow's "dressing room" is a pit, and littered with crap. In fact, it's probably not a dressing room at all! There are no signs of any mirrors...he's been consigned to a utility closet, or perhaps the employee break room. George Memmoli slithers through it sideways to emphasize both his own girth and the narrowness of the room. Philbin hasn't wasted any time: Winslow was playing during the intermission between Juicy Fruits sets, and we can hear the Juicy Fruits' second show playing from outside the dressing room. Here, Winslow explains that his cantata is based on Faust. While the story of Faust has obvious parallels to Phantom's own narrative, it's perhaps less well remembered that in the original Phantom of the Opera novel by Leroux (as opposed to most of the later film versions and the atrocious, horrible, disgusting we-can't-fucking-stand-it-because-it's-such-a-piece-of-godforsaken-shit-but-at-least-it's-not-Cats stage adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber), Faust is the opera being performed in the background of the story. Memmoli does a momentary "break the fourth wall", glancing at the audience as if to ask, "Can you believe this guy?" just before delivering the clunker bit of dialogue, "What label's he on?" Although much of Philbin's dialogue sounds pretty old fashioned today, he presented what was, in 1974, an early example of a now-familiar trope: the record label middle management guy who simultaneously (1) doesn't know anything about anything outside the recording industry, and (2) doesn't know anything about music, either.
Winslow suddenly and insanely goes apeshit at the mere mention of the Juicy Fruits, which is of course movie code for "He has a bad temper; that will be his undoing later." It pays off, sort of, when the Phantom starts taking his revenge, but Winslow is not particularly consistent in his rush to anger. In fact, he proves to be much slower to get to the point that he's had it with Swan than he probably ought to be. Winslow tells us that he's "not going to let his music be mutilated by" the Juicy Fruits...those words will come back to haunt him, as he, himself, is mutilated by having the Juicy Fruits' version of his music stamped indelibly into his face. Philbin's green button here says "ORGY ORGANIZER," which is of course literally true.
We love the rack focus here as attention is pulled back from Winslow's face to the sheet music; De Palma is just great for this kind of thing. There are, throughout his films, multiple planes presented simultaneously (as we just saw with the action in Swan's box in the foreground as Winslow set up his piano in the background). Sometimes it's accomplished through splitscreen, and at other times it's through foreground/background, or, as in Dressed to Kill, for example, something barely noticeable as the camera does a swish pan. Although he doesn't make use of them in Phantom, he is of course well known for employing split diopter lenses, which allow us to view, in simultaneous focus, both an object close to the camera on one side of the screen, and an object far from the camera on the other. The use of the split diopter allows the director to show multiple events, at different distances from the camera, at once, in a way that suggests that what's going on in the two planes is connected, yet somehow disconnected. It's not just "deep focus". It's multiple perspectives, in the same frame. De Palma uses it most frequently to indicate that the character in one field is unable to see what's going on in the other, while at the same time making the unseen activity crystal clear to the audience. (Click here for a few notable examples of this effect from other De Palma films.) Using techniques like splitscreen, rack focusing and split diopters, De Palma directs the audience as much as he directs the film: he uses shifts in focus, and multiple perspectives, to demonstrate that there are choices to be made about what to look at, and how to see it, and, by allowing the audience to see from multiple perspectives simultaneously, reminds us that there are always choices to be made both about what to show, and what to look at. (The entirety of Snake Eyes was an exploration of this idea: begin with what seems to be a straightforward, continuous narrative, and then spend the rest of the film deconstructing it by showing the same story from different visual (rather than Roshomon-esque character) perspectives.) More to the point, he uses focus, perspective and the other tools the camera provides as an integral part of the storytelling, and not merely to record the action for later playback. This is what cinema is all about, we think, and we're glad there are a few directors, like De Palma, who have the talent and interest to do it.
The Death Records logo was inserted here on a title card (as if we were watching a silent movie) to take up the time that had been, prior to the last-minute Swan Song alterations, used for a nice crane shot down from the street sign in front of the building to Winslow nerdily doublechecking the address in his little black book. At this point, we also get our first taste of George Aliceson Tipton's incidental music; it sounds like a string quartet. The violin line here will, a little later in the film, show up in one of Paul Williams' compositions, "Never Thought I'd Get to Meet the Devil." And, this same piece, but with a more urgent arrangement and the addition of a piano, will play again when Winslow returns to Death Records after having escaped from prison. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
As the camera moves down towards Winslow in the retained portion of the crane shot, we see, superimposed over that shot, the Death Records title card moving upwards relative to the camera, as if we were descending from the title card to Winslow. This creates the impression that the title card shares physical space with Winslow in his environment, and is not merely an interstitial signpost. We've never seen this done in any prior live action film (though of course characters had often interacted with title cards, and even the physical medium of the celluloid itself, in Warner Bros. cartoons, with the apex of this sort of thing being the wonderful Daffy Duck short, Duck Amuck.) We suspect that this witty and brilliantly original idea came from editor Paul Hirsch. As shown in our deleted footage, here, Swan's offices are located at the intersection of Swan Song Plaza and Death Drive. In real life, Death Records was played by the Zales (Jewelry) Building, at 3000 Stemmons Parkway, in Dallas. The building is now owned by Mobil Oil, and is at "Pegasus Park". As is more thoroughly discussed on our Production page, this building was also used as Sandman Headquarters in Logan's Run. The deleted crane shot here would have echoed the similarly deleted crane shot from the Majestic's marquee down to Winslow earlier. That shot, like this one, started with some Swan Song signage, and then pulled out to show the surrounding environment, giving the impression that Swan Song (and Swan himself) are everpresent and permeating everything. In the version of the film before these cuts, Swan would have seemed virtually omnipresent and all powerful. As a result of the cuts, he's reduced to being merely a very successful mogul. Incidentally, techniques like the use of title cards ("One Month Later") serve, yet again, to take us out of the movie, by reminding us that we are sitting in a theater, and that we are being addressed, by someone, through the medium of film, rather than merely being swept along by the story. De Palma's goal, or one of them, is to make us aware of the "tricks" he's using to manipulate us, while we are nevertheless being carried away. De Palma loves film technique, and seems to want to impart to us an awareness and appreciation for what he is doing with it, while at the same time asking us to be taken in. Someone with more education than our Principal Archivist might call it "postmodernism," but we think that the only people who actually spend any time studying postmodernism are people who don't get it intuitively, and need to be taught by some pedant that intertextual referentiality is fun, and an effective way to deconstruct and make explicit the fragility and fallibility of the assumptions we all make when interacting with art. If we may digress: If you sit in on an introductory psychology class at any university in the world, you are told that "a test subject, when rewarded for one behavior and punished for another, will tend to exhibit the behavior for which they are rewarded, and refrain from the behavior for which they are punished." 98% of the freshmen collectively grumble, "This is obvious; I can't believe I'm paying money to be here." The other 2% says, "Wow! That's amazing! I never would have thought of that! Think of all the awesome experiments you could do with that!" And that's the 2% that go on to become psychology majors. People who spend their time studying, and spouting, postmodernism, are like that 2%. The idea that the status quo, commonly held beliefs of all kinds, and objective reality, are all questionable in every respect is obvious to most of us. Those who are so slow-witted that this comes to them as a big surprise, and one worth writing about, are called postmodernists. While the rest of us just get it from birth (as evidenced by the fact that even small children think Duck Amuck is funny), postmodernist theorists want to be rewarded with PhDs for having figured it out. OK, where were we...
Right, we were talking about Swan Song. Although it's blurry, you can tell if you squint that the signage over the doors says "Swan Song Enterprises." Can't see it? Get the Blu-Ray. When Winslow exits, later, those same signs will say "Death Records," having been optically altered in post production, again to deal with the Swan Song legal issue. This is all detailed with vastly more thoroughness on our Swan Song Fiasco page, here.
Had this scene been left intact as intended, it would have tracked Winslow continuously and gracefully up through the curving corridor to the receptionist. With the tracking interrupted by the cuts, we lose an example of the "going around in circles" sinuousness that so permeates the film. We still get to see Winslow ducking to get through the doorway, though. The doorways here, like those at Swanage, have been sized to suit the diminutive Swan, rather than taller people.
This sequence, showing Winslow's walk up the Death Records corridor to the receptionist, was supposed to be one continuous take, with the camera following Winslow all the way up the hallway and into the reception area...but as Winslow approaches, we cut away, in an abrupt, ugly and decidedly un-De Palma/Hirsch-like cut, to the receptionist for a moment, and then, by the time we get back to Winslow, he's all the way in the reception area. Why do we have to cut away from Winslow as he goes through the doorway? Because if we hadn't, the "Swan Song Enterprises" lettering over the doors would have been visible. Here's how Winslow's walk up the corridor was supposed to look; you'll see the "forbidden sign" featured prominently...and you also get to see the receptionist's crazy red boots, barely visible in the finished film. And, you'll see (here, but not in the finished film) that, as Winslow made his way up the hallway, he had to thread his way past a pair of Swan's biker bodyguards who were apparently in the process of tossing another undesirable out of the building. The use of bikers as Swan's security detail was obviously inspired by the Rolling Stones' disastrous employment of members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club to protect the stage at their Altamont show, which was of course the subject of the documentary concert film Gimme Shelter. In the documentary, an audience member, wielding a gun and loaded out of his mind, is seen being stabbed to death by one of the Angels. The ill-fated Altamont show, which took place in early December, 1969, has come to symbolize the end of the optimistic romanticism of the '60s, and to serve as a decisive rejoinder to the "peace, love and granola" that had embodied the Woodstock spirit and had become part and parcel of the music of the era. Phantom is, in part, a sad lament on how the idealism of the '60s (embodied in Winslow's belief in the power of his own music) is inevitably commoditized and commercialized, with the fans more exploited than uplifted. Swan's biker bodyguards are a direct allusion to Altamont, and serve to connect the fictional Swan with the real world disillusionment that came with the post-counter-culture era, and the death of the innocence that had at one time been embodied in pop music.
The receptionist runs her finger down her card file, which lists, in addition to Winslow, '70s luminaries Randy Newman, Alice Cooper, Harold Leventhal, Gary Stromberg, Jerry Brandt, David Geffen, George McGovern, Bette Midler, Jerry Moss, Peter Fonda, and Dick Clark. In our selection of outtakes, you can see here that a wider shot of the card file would have revealed that other names on the list included Abbie Hoffman, (Phantom associate producer) Michael Arciaga, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese (misspelled as Scorcese), Charley Pride, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Diamond, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, and "Melanie." Here, you can see a couple of outtakes of Winslow meeting the receptionist. He glances at the floor to make sure he's hitting his mark - that is, standing in exactly the right place, so he'll be in focus and correctly lit. And here is some raw footage of the receptionist. We wish we had an hour or two more of this.
The receptionist, played by the lovely Mary Margaret Amato, seems to get a momentary sexual charge out of hitting the button that summons the goons. Sometimes, it occurs to us that she might be the reason we went back to see this movie so many times.
Winslow being tossed out of the building was filmed at the normal 24 frames per second, and then sped up in post production. Over the doorway, "Swan Song Enterprises" has been matted out, and replaced with "Death Records". On our Swan Song Fiasco page (or right here), you can see, how this was supposed to look, if you want. De Palma has used sped-up motion throughout his career, to various purposes: here, it is to evoke a "silent movie" slapstick sensibility, as Winslow is given the good old fashioned "bum's rush" by greasers who are reminiscent here of the fist-shaking cops of Mack Sennett movies of the '20s. In Carrie, The Wedding Party, and Redacted, De Palma uses the same technique, but in those films it is employed to emphasize the tedium of performing monotonous and repetitive tasks (trying on tuxedos, packing luggage into a car, and searching vehicles at checkpoints, respectively.) Kubrick did the same thing (accompanied by the frenetic "William Tell Overture") in A Clockwork Orange, to convey the meaninglessness of Alex's anonymous sex with the two girls he meets in a record shoppe - an idea Kubrick himself may have gotten from De Palma's own Greetings, in which fast-motion was used for the same purpose!
The Rolls Royce that the production rented in Texas was black with a silver roof, and had no rearview mirrors on the front fenders, while the one that we see in the later scenes, filmed in New York, is silver, and has the rearviews. Here, Winslow watches the Texas Rolls (with a Death Records thug and Herb Pacheco in the front seats) depart Death Records in Texas...
...and hails a cab (at 100 Wall Street) to follow it in New York. Interestingly, De Palma (who chooses his locations carefully) picked a spot on the sidewalk in which Winslow appears "in a circle" and also "in a mirror". Mirrors and circles both figure prominently throughout the film, serving as traditional cinematic signifiers of futility, chasing your tail, and a failure to engage in self-examination. Winslow's exhortation to "follow that car!" is of course a classic movie trope, and one of the most frequently ridiculed, to the point that Hitchcock once said, "If I were to make another picture set in Australia I'd have a policeman hop into the pocket of a kangaroo and yell, Follow that car!" We can't count how many movies we've seen in which the hero urgently yells to the cabbie, "Follow that car!" and the taxi takes off without him, leaving the hero standing on the sidewalk, steaming.
We don't think there's any significance to the old Volvo. It's not some kind of commentary on Winslow's Swede-like neutrality or reliability. I mean, get a life. Sheesh. We can't stand people who overanalyze things. Moving on...
We like how the left-to-right wipe follows the taxi off the screen. This is a move that Phantom editor Paul Hirsch would use again a couple of years later in Star Wars to follow Luke's speeder, here.
Looks like you have to go through Central Park's Engineers' Gate (at East 90th) to get into Swanage!
Having jumped the wall at New York's Central Park, Winslow is back in Texas, where he approaches "Old Red," the Dallas courthouse, which plays the role of Swanage's exteriors. The music accompanying Winslow's approach, "Never Thought I'd Get to Meet the Devil," is not a snippet of some longer song; Paul Williams never wrote more verses than what is played here. It was presumably left off the soundtrack album just because it was deemed too short and inconsequential to include. We assume that this song was written relatively late in production, since it incorporates the violin theme from Tipton's "approaching Death Records" incidental music.
Winslow opens the door in Texas...
...and enters Swanage in California. This interior was shot at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, which, at the time, was being leased by the American Film Institute. Literally zillions of films have been shot here. You can get a really good look at it, if you're interested, in the music video for Elton John's "I Want Love," in which Robert Downey Jr. wanders through the empty rooms and hallways of the mansion as he mimes to the song.
The audition line includes B-movie cult beauty Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith, and, in the really big hair, Janit Baldwin. Ms. Baldwin gets to deliver the line, "Do I look like a Kidder?", apparently a little jab at De Palma's then-ex-girlfriend, Margot Kidder. In other shades-of-Kevin-Bacon connections, she also got to lie around naked in a cow pen with Carrie star and Phantom set dresser Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut and will also go on to play Carrie star Piper Laurie's daughter Leslie in Ruby, a 1977 horror film in which some wardrobe from Phantom appears. There's a nice little homage to this scene, and to other Phantom moments, in Bob Sinclar's music video for his song "I Feel For You", which you can view here. In the cacophony of voices, one of them (the one going "And I can't sleep, no, no...") is Jessica Harper, intentionally singing badly.
Movies are of course generally shot out-of-sequence, but Jessica Harper's first scene here on the staircase was in fact on her first day of shooting, in her first film, but for an extremely brief appearance in Milos Forman's Taking Off a few years earlier. Immediately on the heels of Phantom, she would have starring roles in Inserts, playing opposite Richard Dreyfuss, and of course Italian horror director Dario Argento's Suspiria. (Argento cast Harper in Suspiria on the strength of her performance in Phantom). It's probably fair to wonder, especially since the film contains no relationships between people that consist of much more than being a manipulator and a manipulatee, whether Phoenix is just a scheming little bitch who immediately figures out that she can use Winslow's interest in her to her advantage (since, as the songwriter, perhaps he can further her career), or whether she actually likes him. Jessica Harper says that her understanding, at least, is that "there was a real connection between Phoenix and Winslow". We've heard, over the years, many people complain that Winslow's obsession for Phoenix is unreasonable given the very few seconds they actually spend together...we think these critics are missing the point -- a standard convention of musical theater and film, "love at first sight", is being spoofed here.
There's a cutaway from Winslow's and Phoenix's conversation to Janit Baldwin turning her head in slow motion, and then in reverse for a few frames here. Our assumption is that there was a problem with the shot of Winslow and Phoenix (maybe an insect flew into somebody's mouth or something, or there's a big scratch on the negative) that was only discovered during post production, and that there was no coverage, so the shot of Ms. Baldwin had to be stretched for a few extra frames to fill up the time needed. Or, that there were two takes of the conversation between Winslow and Phoenix, and not enough footage of Ms. Baldwin to fill the gap between the good parts of each of them, making it necessary to "extend" the footage of Ms. Baldwin. (Our friend Ethan De Seife reminds us that Hitchcock, or his editor, used a similar editing trick in Strangers on a Train, when Robert Walker leans out from around a corner, and then appears to lean back. The shot was run forward, paused, then run back again, presumably to stretch out the tension a little by extending the shot's duration.) Incidentally, Ms. Baldwin appeared on The Dating Game once, looking very fetching...we have the proof right here! The woman standing next to Ms. Baldwin is the tiresome self-promoter Angelyne. Ironically, Angelyne is a living embodiment of the fame-whore phenomenon that Phantom is lampooning.
Another short doorway here as, again, this place was designed for Swan's convenience.
This scene tells us all we need to know about Winslow: even though he's obviously infatuated with Phoenix, his principal concern, immediately after she's been sexually assaulted, is whether she had a moment to advocate on his behalf while Philbin was groping her.
The first time we see more of Swan than his gloved hands, we're seeing him in a mirror that distorts his height, disguising his small stature. Fittingly, he is emerging from a red, steaming opening that seems to lead underground. This is of course a Very Big Clue as to his true nature. His line, "get this fag out of here," plays very differently now than it did in 1974. Then, the line was considered by most people to be funny, and the audience laughed with Swan at Winslow's expense. Today, of course, it immediately pegs Swan as a homophobic asshole who's probably "overcompensating" for something... In 1974, most audiences probably would not have seen it as ironic that Swan, whom we have already learned "gets turned on" by watching women "doing each other," is referring to Winslow as some kind of sexual deviant (nor, for that matter, that Swan doesn't seem to know the difference between a transvestite and a homosexual). For us at the Archives, much as we love the movie, this moment is always a little cringeworthy. We do like the dead bird logo in the middle of the waterbed, though.
Some fun is clearly being had here with this key image from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The girls on the waterbed (all dressed in shades of red, I guess we know where they're going) are apparently the ones who passed Philbin's "preliminary audition", which is of course why Phoenix is not one of them. B-movie princess Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith is here, though. (She's the one who needs help warming up her voice). The line, "If you can sing standing up you can sing lying down," among others, is dubbed by an uncredited Betty Buckley, who will have her onscreen debut a couple of years later as Miss Collins in De Palma's Carrie.
This was shot on the grounds outside Old Red, the Dallas courthouse. The actors playing the two cops were probably auditioned and hired locally in Dallas, rather than flown in from Los Angeles or New York.
"Sing Sing" gets a laugh every time. The building is not actually Sing Sing Correctional Facility, though; it's the White Rock Lake Pump Station in Dallas, at 2900 White Rock Road. Built in 1911 to supply water to the city, it's now a Texas Historic Landmark, and houses the Water Operations Control Center of Dallas Water Utilities.
The warden's desk is littered with toys, which we presume were made by inmates at the prison toy factory we will later see Winslow working in. As we first see the warden, he's using his fingernail to clean food out from between his teeth, apparently more obsessed with dental hygiene than with manners. The warden is played by an actor named Gene Gross. (The nameplate on his desk says, "V Gross"). We're not sure where they found him (though he had appeared in a small role in Serpico a couple of years earlier), but he does a great job here. This scene was shot in a room at the Pressman Toy Company factory.
The idea that Winslow's teeth will be removed in prison, and the warden's line, "teeth are a source of infection, and it pays to be on the safe side," are both lifted directly from Nathanael West's satirical novel, "A Cool Million", published in 1934. In that story, Lem Pitkin, the naïve hero, who leaves home to "seek his fortune," suffers a series of humiliations, each progressively more horrible than the last. He, like Winslow, is unjustly incarcerated, and told by the prison warden that teeth are a source of infection, before having them removed. (The story is a sarcastic denunciation of the Horatio Alger myth, and the "American Dream" in general, and shares a number of overarching themes with Phantom.) Pitkin, forever optimistic and gullible, falls victim to a series of con artists, dishonest policemen, bullies, and politicians, and, along the way, loses his teeth, his scalp, his eye, his thumb and his leg. In the end, after having been killed, he is cynically martyred for political gain. The story was clearly an inspiration for De Palma, and the purehearted-but-ambitious Winslow's gradual dismemberment (unjust incarceration, loss of teeth, eye, voice, and life) and exploitation (Swan attempts to leverage Winslow's supposed death into record sales by marketing Faust as having been written "by the late Winslow Leach") closely parallels Pitkin's. In Phantom, Winslow's toothlessness is probably also intended as a metaphor for the degree to which any artist who wants mass success finds himself obliged to take the "teeth" out of his work.
The prison toy factory was played by a Pressman Toy Company factory, which was owned by Phantom producer Ed Pressman's family. The Pressman Toy Company actually did make Tiddley Winks, seen being assembled here; they still do. (The toy factory also figures prominently in an incredibly crappy Santa-Claus-as-slasher film, Christmas Evil (also known as Terror in Toyland), on which Mr. Pressman has a "Presented by" credit.) The DJ's voice we hear on the radio (we also heard him earlier, announcing the "twenty-minute intermission before the next show") is that of Wendell "Windy" Craig, a ubiquitous voiceover artist: he was an announcer at CBS for years, and has done thousands of commercials. De Palma also used him for background radio noise in Sisters. He introduces "Upholstery" as being "Swan's Faust", and says it's the new hit from the Juicy Fruits; he also mentions that the Juicy Fruits will be performing at the opening of the Paradise. What's interesting about this is that the soundtrack album and the film's closing credits both refer to the band that plays "Upholstery" as being the "Beach Bums" (while both Windy Craig and the license plate on their exploding car say "Juicy Fruits") and refer to the band at the opening of the Paradise as "The Undead". As a result, it's not completely clear whether Swan was passing the same guys off as three different bands (in which case the film's music-consuming public is really stupid), or whether they're supposed to be one band that whorishly plays music in whatever style Swan tells them to play this week. (In the scripts, the band we know as "The Undead" was called "The Heavies".) Our own view is that, in the context of the film itself, all three bands were The Juicy Fruits. But, in a case of life imitating art, we suspect that A&M Records (in true Swannish fashion) wanted to give the bands different names because they felt it would be easier to promote the anticipated "hit songs" from the movie that way, and so the "Beach Bums" and "Undead" names were tacked onto the closing credits for consistency with A&M's plans for the soundtrack album. (As it turned out, "Somebody Super Like You" actually charted in Canada, and "Goodbye Eddie," "Special to Me" and "The Hell of It" reached number one in airplay in El Salvador.)
We love George Aliceson Tipton's incidental music over this section, which has a silent-movie-melodrama-meets-classical feel to it, and which is echoing the prison dining room meltdown in "White Heat". Winslow's escape is so implausibly easy, and the carton's convenient fall from the truck so unlikely, that an "anything can happen" mood is set here. Even the most dull-witted audience member would now understand that the film's radical changes in tone are intentional, and that De Palma is deliberately repurposing genre elements as shorthand to express his affection for various cinematic forms and technique as much as to further the story. Like Beef, the movie is a Frankenstein monster of stitched-together stories, moods, tones, and forms.
Swan's Video Surveillance Center : Currently Viewing Monitor 1 <advance to next monitor>
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