8/10
A feast for the eyes.
13 September 2014
This viewer feels obliged to point out that his hometown - Winnipeg, Canada - is one of the two cities in the world to truly embrace Brian De Palmas' operatic spoof of the glam rock era. (The other being Paris, France.) Therefore, it's mystifying that it should have taken me so long to finally watch it, but now I'm glad that I have.

It's a thoroughly flamboyant, marvelously designed and decorated rock musical that combines the themes of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a naive, trusting singer-composer who is taken advantage of by conniving producer Swan (who's played by real-life singer-composer-actor Paul Williams). Several circumstances later, the disfigured Leach seeks revenge against Swan while falling madly in love with aspiring pop star Phoenix (the radiant Jessica Harper).

The late, great character star Finley and the engaging Williams were never better than in this funny and fast paced exercise in style. It gets off to a great start with opening narration by none other than Rod Serling. Well shot, by Larry Pizer, and designed, by Jack Fisk, it features some thoroughly catchy ditties by Williams. The parodies of such performers as Sha-Na-Na and the Beach Boys are spot on. De Palma is also most effective at capturing the insanity of the emerging shock-rock trend, especially with the effeminate rocker Beef, one of the all- time best roles for top character actor Gerrit Graham.

Harper is beautiful and extremely appealing and it's a shame that neither she nor Graham nor anyone else here ever became big stars. Williams is great fun, and Finley fully embraces the tragic arc of his character. Heavy set George Memmoli is also solid as Swans' gopher Philbin.

This film manages to maintain that feeling of fun throughout while also being rather sad at the same time.

Trivia note: Fisks' wife, actress Sissy Spacek, who went on to play the title role in De Palmas' next film, the feature adaptation of Stephen Kings' "Carrie", was the set dresser here. And look for such familiar 70s actresses as Jennifer Ashley, Janit Baldwin, Janus Blythe, Robin Mattson, Patrice Rohmer, and Cheryl Smith among the groupies.

Eight out of 10.
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