While we’re waiting for John Cameron to post the Six In The Morning*, here’s some old and sad news probably no one cares about but me. Last night, I learned actor William Finley had passed away in April. Finley, a bug-eyed and oddly handsome man, starred in Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult classic Phantom Of The Paradise along with the great Paul Williams. I love Phantom Of the Paradise. It’s sort of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but without the burlesque and more straight ahead campiness, which a kid who liked Adam West’s Batman could get behind. Finley’s Phantom was a supercool tragic hero who swooshed around in a cape wearing the best mask ever.
The weird thing about that movie was if you were a little kid in Winnipeg in 1974, it hit a liminal, post-Led Zepplin, pre-Kiss psychic sweet spot. It also had a great movie poster. Seriously, it’s just gorgeous. Look at it. Ooooh. Pretty.
In fact, the movie really was a Winnipeg thing. It bombed all over the continent but played in the ‘Peg forever in a weird, Saturday-afternoon-midnight-movie-matinee-for-children kinda way.
Ironically, I’d done an “Alive Or Dead?” check on Finley in February (yes, this is a thing I do) when he was still with us. He was fine at the time. I found out about Finley’s death accidentally while link-hopping for info on director Edgar Wright’s upcoming movie The World’s End. Turns out Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz) is also a huge fan of Phantom, and he has a moving obituary for Finley on his blog. Excerpt:
I first saw William Finley in ‘Phantom Of The Paradise’ when I was 12 on British television. It made an indelible mark on me, not least because of Finley’s amazing twin performance as Winslow Leach and the Phantom. It was one of those unique characterisations that absolutely embodies the spirit of the movie.
As well as ‘Phantom’, Finley was also great in a number of other De Palma films, the cult classic‘Sisters’, the very underrated ‘The Fury’ and most recently in ‘The Black Dahlia’. I actually clapped with delight when I saw him in the latter. He also provided (uncredited) the voice of ‘Bobbi’ in De Palma’s masterpiece ‘Dressed To Kill’. Anyone who has seen that movie knows just what a truly great part that was. Other roles included Marshall Brickman’s underseen and underrated comedy ‘Simon’ with Alan Arkin and also grindhouse epics like Tobe Hooper’s ‘Eaten Alive’ and the bonkers ‘Silent Rage’ (also referred to in ‘Hot Fuzz’). I always wondered if anyone caught the nods to ‘Phantom Of The Paradise’ in my movies and as heartbroken as I am to realize I will never meet him, I am glad he was the person that did.
Rest in peace, sweet Phantom. Thanks for the making this little grown-up kid’s world a stranger and much cooler place.
*John’s been carrying the torch on these as everyone else has slacked off. We will smarten up soon and the morning news shall rise again.