Toronto-based filmmaker visits Winnipeg to explore the city's love for Phantom of the Paradise

A Toronto-based filmmaker is coming in and out of Winnipeg to document what he calls the city's "deep, dark phantom love."

'Why this [love] only happened in Winnipeg, I have no idea,' he said

Craig Wallace is the guitarist of Winnipeg's Phantom of the Paradise tribute band, Swanage. Toronto-based documentary filmmaker Malcom Ingram is visiting Winnipeg to explore the city's endless love for the film. (Phantom of Winnipeg)

A Toronto-based filmmaker is coming in and out of Winnipeg to document what he calls the city's "deep, dark phantom love."

That love, he said, is for the musical horror film, Phantom of the Paradise, which flopped everywhere in North America, except for Winnipeg, upon it's release in 1974.

In theatres across the continent, it opened and closed within one week but in Manitoba's capital, it played for four months and still screens at special events.

Malcom Ingram is creating a documentary film on Winnipeg's eternal love for the movie. He spoke to CBC's Marcy Markusa about the influence of the city's history on the love and celebration of Phantom of the Paradise and why he chose to explore it.

Why did Winnipeg love Phantom of the Paradise when everyone else rejected it?

It's a mystery for the ages. Anybody who seen this movie, it's a very adult film but for some reason, the main audience was between nine and 14 years old so, I think a lot of people talked about it on the school ground. Now, why this only happened in Winnipeg, I have no idea.

Ultimately, with the documentary I've figured out it's not just the, 'Why did that happen?' It's … celebrating the fact that it actually did happen. Like, it's this really weird story and it's just kind of really cool.

What about our musical history in this city? Does that have a link to this?

Everybody I've talked to has said the biggest thing they loved about [Phantom of the Paradise] is the music. So, I think music is definitely part of the appreciation.

Why did you want to make a documentary on the phenomenon of Winnipeg loving that film?

I'm a huge fan of misfit culture … My first documentary was a documentary about small town gay bars in Mississippi and people kind of finding a place to go and hang out and creating these kind of misfit communities. Every documentary I've made has been a continuation on this and this just seemed to be a natural fit.

How devoted are fans in Winnipeg today?

When we were there filming in October there was a really cool event at The Metropolitan, where basically a sold-out crowd watched the movie and they had a performance by this awesome cover band in town called Swanage … They're really awesome and they play the songs from the soundtrack.

How bad is Phantom of the Paradise?

That's the funny thing about it. What's really kind of interesting is … it's actually a really great film. It's a film directed by Brian De Palma soon before he directed Carrie. It was done by a great director. Paul Williams is an incredible songwriter. He went on to write Evergreen for Barbra Streisand and won an Oscar. My comparison is it had the same kind of life as Rocky Horror Picture Show. When it first came out, it was considered very much a bomb but essentially a theatre in New York City started playing it at midnights and then it got it's life. In Phantom, it got picked up in Winnipeg. [There], it's just a lot of regular people who have this deep, dark secret. You know, their phantom love.

Ingram is coming back to Winnipeg in February to continue his work on the project. He has also launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the film.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


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