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Why is Winnipeg so obsessed with the Phantom of the Paradise?

A Toronto-based documentary filmmaker wants to find out what drew the city to The Phantom of the Paradise while the rest of North America ignored it

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/12/2015 (1535 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When it comes to passionate, aberrant fandom, nothing quite compares to the way Winnipeg embraced the 1974 Brian De Palma rock-horror-comedy The Phantom of the Paradise when just about every other city in North America rejected it.

While the film died an ignominious box office death in most cities within days of its release, it played here off and on for more than a year, with fervent "Phans" seeing it multiple times.

Decades later, those same enthusiasts brought in virtually the entire cast to celebrate the film at two Phantompalooza events in 2005 and 2006. Now, Winnipeg’s strange passion is to be immortalized in a planned documentary titled Phantom of Winnipeg, to be directed by Malcolm Ingram, a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker whose work includes Small Town Gay Bar and Continental, the latter being a history of one of New York’s celebrated gay bathhouses.

Phantom of the Paradise has proven to be a perennial hit with Winnipeggers.


Phantom of the Paradise has proven to be a perennial hit with Winnipeggers.

Phantom of Winnipeg is raising money through an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, which has already raised close to $5,000 towards a target of $50,000.

The Indiegogo pitch promises the doc will "be an exploration of an outsider community and the very DNA of fan culture itself told via the true-life stories of those fateful Winnipeg kids who just got it, the cast and creative team behind the original film who saw it all go down first-hand and the famous artists who swear that Winnipeg was definitely on to something."

The genesis of the doc began when Ingram had read an article by Winnipegger Doug Carlson who, after acting as the chairman for Phantompalooza II in 2005, "became obsessed with why this happened in Winnipeg," Carlson says.

"I published this article called Why Winnipeg?, which was my take on the whole Phantom phenomenon, but it also became a love letter to the city of Winnipeg.

"Malcolm stumbled upon it a couple of years later and contacted me and asked me if I was interested in doing something with this."

Carlson has since become a "consulting producer" on the film, which already includes some footage from a scaled-back Phantom fan event in October. He says he believes Ingram is the right filmmaker for the job.

"He absolutely gets it. His previous films have been looking at marginalized communities from an LGBT perspective, but I think there’s a parallel here," Carlson says.

"My films are all about misfit communities," Ingram says in a phone interview from Toronto.

"I made a film about small-town gay bars in the south. That was about people finding a community in a very unlikely place, and every movie I’ve made is about that theme.

"I’m very strongly drawn to the idea of misfit communities," he says, acknowledging that while he admires De Palma’s film, he’s not focused on it.

"It’s not necessarily about the thing that brings people together," he says. "It’s also about belonging to a club. When you’re a fan of something, you speak your own language within that world."

While predominantly looking for money, the filmmakers are also looking for material. Doug Carlson is especially keen to find any photographs that might have been taken at one of two sold-out Paul Williams concerts in Winnipeg in June 1975.

"There were about 2,500 people at each of those shows, the majority of which would have been 11-year-old girls with Instamatic cameras," Carlson says. "Any photos that exist or survive, we’d absolutely love to see them."

If you have any material that might be of interest to the filmmakers, email phantomofwinnipeg@gmail.com.

Evidently, Winnipeg hasn’t lost its taste for horror material. C4, the group behind the annual Halloween-season comic convention, has announced its inaugural horror-themed offshoot to hit the RBC Convention Centre in time for Valentine’s Day.

St. Valentines HorrorCon, scheduled Feb. 13-14, will feature special guest Kane Hodder, an actor who has at different times played Friday the 13th maniac Jason Voorhees and (as a stuntman) Leatherface in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

More recently, he has portrayed swamp mutant Victor Crowley in three Hatchet films.

Winnipeg promoter Shelley Ostrove says the event will feature between 30 and 40 booths with additional attractions, including a risqué zombie fashion show hosted by the Adam & Eve lingerie store and zombie makeup displays and workshops.

Tickets are $10 for each day or $18 for the whole weekend and are available at Ticketmaster.


Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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Updated on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 7:52 AM CST: Photo added, headline changed.

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