By Kai Jackson
Thursday night was a special and exciting night for die-hard fans of the 1974 rock classic, “Phantom of the Paradise.” An excited audience were treated to a double feature film presentation featuring the U.S premier screening of the documentary “Phantom of Winnipeg”—about how “Phantom of the Paradise” became a sensation in the titular Winnipeg, Manitoba— followed by a special Q & A session and a showing of the original rock classic.
“Phantom of the Paradise” is a 1974 film directed by Brian De Palma, and loosely based on “The Phantom of the Opera.” It is known for its mixed elements of horror, romance and comedy. The film had a major impact on the local younger audience who were seeing the film at the time during its release in Winnipeg. The documentary “Phantom of Winnipeg” pays tribute to the rock classic following several individuals who share the impact the film had on them in their youth.
“Nobody could ever see it just once, everyone has seen it at a bare minimum of 10 times,” said a longtime fan in the documentary.
On the first night of the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, which people are hoping to be the first of many, guests gathered at the Tarrytown Music Hall where the screening took place.
Things kicked off when event co-founders Taylor White and town local Dale Cunningham took the stage to welcome the audience with a brief intro and speech before the showing.
“Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, the whole historic Hudson Valley, they’re all forever intertwined with Washington Irving’s legacy with artistic excellence, strange beauty and of course the unknown,” said Cunningham during the intro. “And now here we are, in this perfect venue, the perfect time of the year and the perfect location.”
As the room went dark with the opening credits of the premier documentary appearing on screen, another wave of cheers and applause emerged from the audience. With only 10 minutes into the film, the audience were already been treated to humor and montages that would bring the average fan back in time when the original film first premiered.
The film ran for a joyful hour and 17 minutes, taking the audience through the timeline of the rock classic’s bizarre path to popularity, along with humorous stories, throwback tracks like “We’ve Only Just Begun”, songs from the rock classic and the compelling story behind “Phantompalooza.” Summing the entire night up, Thursday night for fans was a joyful trip down memory lane.
The documentary also featured special appearances such as Kevin Smith, producer Edward R. Pressman and of course the original stars of “Phantom of the Paradise,” Paul Williams and Gerrit Graham.
“Hard to believe the Phantom took over the minds of these Winnipegers” said Paul Williams in the documentary. Kevin Smith also shared his story of experiencing Phantom of Paradise
“[Phantom of Paradise] was one of the most provocative trailers I have ever seen in my youth,” Smith recalls in the documentary.
After the conclusion of the documentary the special Q & A session went underway. Cheers and applause emerged from the audience once again as Paul Williams, Garrit Graham and producer Edward Pressman took the stage. The stars were also joined by Sean Stanley and Malcolm Ingram, the directors of the documentary who received a warm reception from the audience.
The session amounted to 40 minutes of roaring laughs, cheers and flashbacks as the stars shared funny memories of being on set and recapped the highlights of the horror classic. Directors Stanley and Ingram also opened up about their experience making the documentary and the impact the film had on them.
“It was a movie that really stuck with me,” said Sean Stanley.
At the conclusion of the special Q & A session Williams went on to accept the Washington Irving Lifetime Achievement Award for his talent and “devoting his life to kindness and giving back.”