I’ve seen PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE mentioned around here in various posts – but I’m surprised no one has done a traumafession about it.
Sometime between 1979 and ’81 my mom’s boyfriend’s daughter (who was a teenager) took my sister and I (who were 10-12ish) to a double feature of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (these both came out in ’74 – but because of when my mom started dating this guy I’m pretty sure I was about 10 when I saw them.) These movies are both pretty hilarious, but it’s kinda funny how horror comedy seems to be totally lost on kids. I’ve seen both movies many times as an adult, but when I was a kid, after having watched one seemingly traumatic movie on a huge, huge screen, and then half of another seemingly traumatic one – googly eyes ceased to be funny and sitting in the lobby for the last half of the comedy YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN seemed like a total necessity.
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE is basically PHANTOM OF THE OPERA set in a rock club in the ‘70s. I won’t go into the plot – just the parts that scared the hell out of me. The first scene is towards the beginning of the movie – where the songwriter, Winslow, gets his teeth yanked out and replaced by freaky metal teeth. Then he gets his head squashed in a record press, which totally deforms his face – and totally sent me into kiddie shock. Then he skulks around the dark corners of The Paradise in a freakaziod, beaked mask and cape and sings his songs in this horrible metallicy, warped voice.
If all these events aren’t scary enough to make a kid run out of the theater, just wait. At the end of the movie, after we see Beef get killed on stage (Beef kinda scared me too), weirdo, creepy, short, devil guy PAUL WILLIAMS (who I just reencountered in THE HARDY BOYS AND NANCY DREW MEET DRACULA – yay!!!) gets his gold mask yanked off to reveal a bloody face. My kinder memory of this event has massive amounts of blood all over his face. In reality, there’s not so much blood. Even now -when I see the scene, I am surprised that there isn’t more blood or gore – cause seriously, I remember it being more like CARRIE.
And Beef? Silly? Yes. Funny? Yes. Over the top, campy fruitcake? Yes. Scary? Nope.
I actually didn’t leave the theater until my sister told me she wanted me to go with her to the bathroom during the second movie, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. We both wound up on a padded red theater bench in the lobby with her telling me how she couldn’t go back in and look at “that guy’s” face anymore, and I sat next to her telling her that his movie isn’t really as scary as the other movie. But I think the one I was really trying to convince was me – ’cause I couldn’t make myself go back into the theater any more than she could.
Oh, and you may be asking who “that guy” is whose face scared my sister so bad.
Another early horror-movie-in-the-theater experience I had was right around that same time – with the same chick – who took us to see GHOST STORY. The popping out of nowhere ghost lady scared the CRAP out of me so bad and forced me to stare at the back of the seat in front of me for most of the movie and I still remember a very distinct trapped feeling – like the darkness and the GIANT gross faces in the movie were all closing in on me.
Now that’s scary.