Sunday, November 02, 2008
Fun movie nights in little Transylvania with the Phantom of the Paradise
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damned perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease and midnight never come!
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
In my oddly successful career as an actor (I made a whole $200) I practised this line out of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus
till I got the full timbre and fright evoked in Marlowe's lines. Damn! Those Elizabethans were good.
Take note, you horror and fantasy writers out there. De Debbil makes the best play or novel,
So how many takes have there been on the Faust legend--a hundred?--And when Faust becomes Armand Moncharmin, the manager of the Opera, he is the perfect Beelzebub, the devil who will demand your soul--in blood--before you attain immortality. Fascinating, oddly timeless plot.
And when you combine Faust with an early 20th century chiller like Phantom of the Opera, you make bucks on the stage, big bucks as any peek at receipts of Broadway's Phantom of the Opera are any indication.
But there was an earlier work largely unnoticed --or savaged by the critics-- Titled "Phantom of the Paradise (or Fillmore, the 1970's the rock place?) which was the seminal work for movies of that type. (I shudder to use the term seminal since Phantom of the Paradise one day became the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was a great hit on the midnight TV channels, and as a film.It featured, in part, characters from the planet Transvesitia.
But from little acorns, tall oaks grow, if you consider Rocky Horror as a tall poppy.
It was Paul Williams' Phantom of the Paradise that broke the ground for the Rocky Horror tour de force.
Panned by critics and everbody in the film unfarily criticized, It took Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to recognize Williams' genius as an actor and director, and I suppose, for an audience about four generations removed from Transylvania (Ukkraine is just next door, to Transylvania) the Ukies bought it. It remained on local screens for eight years.
Phantom of the Paradise remains a cult classic and it is aired on public television just about every Halloween.
Moral of this story?
You can write a genius work, partially based on the Faust legend, you can sell your soul to the devil and fail all the same.
But there are vultures circling about overhead, not so much to eat your liver, like that of Prometheus, but to steal your play. One year later, out came the cult hit, Rocky Horror Picture show.
Paul Williams produced a masterpiece, was unfairly called no good for this--and then everybody copied him and made a fortune. Only Winnipeg was in there pitching for him, and of that I am proud. Phantom of the Paradise, though released in l974, was a masterpiece that is still today played over and over again by the buffs of that kind of film.