Winnipeg: The Phantom of the Paradise Capital of the World

[This is my national column in the Metro commuter papers this morning. It’s going over very well in, you know, Winnipeg. I will see everyone at the celebration tonight. – AC]

Forty years ago, two movies were released to massive public indifference. One would later become a worldwide cult phenomenon that has since grossed more than $440 million. The other also became a cult favourite but on a — ahem — slightly smaller scale.

That first movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has never officially been pulled from theatrical release by 20th Century Fox and continues to screen all over the world. The second film also lives on, but only in one place: Winnipeg.

The Phantom of the Paradise, Brian De Palma’s schlocky rock ’n’ roll riff on The Phantom of the Opera, tells the story of poor Winslow Leach, who, after being disfigured by having his head squished in a record press, has his music stolen by the evil Swan, played by the diminutive Paul Williams, best known at the time for writing hits for The Carpenters and Barbra Streisand, and who would soon gain fame for writing Rainbow Connection for Kermit the Frog. Swan also steals away Phoenix, the object of Leach/The Phantom’s unrequited love. It all ends very badly for everyone.

For reasons that baffle cinephiles, musicologists and sociologists, Paradise grabbed on to the good people of Winnipeg upon its release in 1974 and never let go. While the film was bounced from theatres within a week or two in most cities, it ran for months in Winnipeg. The city bought more than 20,000 copies of the soundtrack. And passion for the movie continues to run very, very deep.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Winnipeg: The Phantom of the Paradise Capital of the World

  • October 30, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Well, while Rocky Horror was very campy and a lot of fun, “Phantom” was actually kind of disturbing. I saw it at the theatre and didn’t know what to think when I left? But Jesus, Alan, now we all want to see pictures of Paul Williams’ feet!


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