Sunday, March 22, 2015

Phantom Moments: Guest Post by Lesa Howard

So you all might know that I'm a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical and any retellings of it. This is in honor of that.

Today I have a guest post written by Lesa Howard, author of Phantom's Dance

First Phantom

After reading Stephanie’s inaugural Phantom Moments post, oddly enough my mind went back to some of the movie versions of the Phantom I’ve seen over the years. I love Claude Raines so his portrayal of Erique Claudin first piqued my interest in the phantom’s tragic story. Yet that version is not the one that stands out most when I think back to my teen years. I’m about to date myself here and reveal how incredibly nerdy I was, but before Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece, there was Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise.

Phantom of the Paradise was a musical released in 1974, shortly before De Palma did Carrie, and it was a total cheese-fest, campy even before Rocky Horror Picture show came on the scene, and I was a thirteen-year-old romantic who loved every bit of it. Here’s the IMDB synopsis: A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise. But it was so much more to me.

For whatever reason, this red-headed misfit living in small-town Texas identified with the main character’s tortured soul. The storyline is a lot like the Claude Raines version, which may have been why I liked it. It follows a Faust-like arc, Winslow Leach’s (no, his name is not Erik) cantata is even entitled Faust, and many characters are prompted to sell their souls to the devil for success in the music industry.

When the gifted and talented musician seeks representation for his opera, he goes to the enormously successful record producer who steals his music for his own use. Then he frames Winslow for a crime he didn’t commit and has him carted off to a prison said producer happens to own. Winslow stages a ridiculous prison break and heads straight for the record company. On a rampage, he vandalizes the recording equipment, and when he’s accidentally caught in a record press, not only is his face disfigured but he loses his voice as well. Voila! A phantom who sounds like Darth Vader.

As anyone can see, these two similar versions are quite different from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway play and Gaston Leroux’s original antihero. No doubt the man rolled in his grave when Phantom of the Paradise came out. Still, it was a musical and it was the 70s and did what the 70s did best, embraced all things pop culture. And, hey, I’m a big fan of cheddar, provolone, and Munster.

This was my first Phantom. What was yours?

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