Saturday, June 1, 2019

PHANTASM (1979) Blu-ray Review

Phantasm (1979) d. Don Coscarelli (USA) (88 min)

Following the death of their parents, teenager Mike (Michael Baldwin) develops a crippling fear that his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) will desert him as well. After one of Jody’s friends is murdered by a mysterious Lady in Lavender (Kathy Lester), bizarre occurrences start to transpire in the small town, seemingly connected to the Morningside funeral home and orchestrated by an enigmatic Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). Mike, Jody, and everyone’s favorite ice cream vendor Reggie (Reggie Bannister) join forces to combat the sinister elements at play, with the line increasingly blurring between reality and fantasy.

Writer/director Coscarelli (who would serve up the Beastmaster franchise three years later) delivers one of the most daring U.S. horror efforts of the 1970s, eschewing traditional narrative devices while embracing nightmare visuals and logic. Aided immeasurably by his extremely likeable and relatable cast (as well as Scrimm as the instantly iconic Tall Man), we dive headlong into the goings-on of a macabre mausoleum which may serve as the entryway to another dimension.

The skull-drilling, brain-sucking flying chrome orbs of death that serve as the Morningside sentries are the most memorable of Coscarelli’s flights of fancy, but there’s never a dull moment as alternate realities, dream sequences, and diminutive dwarf assailants lurk around every corner. (However, it’s easy to forget that to the uninitiated, with its wobbly line-readings and kitchen-sink-plus-what-else-you-got plotline, Coscarelli’s breakout film can come off a little, well, off.)

I finally caught up with the J.J. Abrams-produced “Phantasm: Remastered” version this month, inspired by vintage interviews with Creature Features host John Stanley on The Night Creature Features Died; listening to Baldwin, Scrimm, Coscarelli, and Thornbury on the audio commentary track is like sitting down with a group of old friends, and it’s remarkable to see how well some of the effects hold up under high-def scrutiny (as well as revealing little details like the fact that it was RAINING the day Scrimm was called upon to hoist Tommy’s coffin into the back of the hearse. HOW DID I NEVER SEE THAT BEFORE.)

A true low-budget modern-horror classic, followed by three increasingly confusing sequels directed by Coscarelli and a fourth (Phantasm: Ravager) directed by FX man David Hartman.


Audio Commentary with writer/director Don Coscarelli, and actors Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm, and Bill Thornbury

2013 Graveyard Carz episode showcasing the iconic Phantasm ’Cuda

Interviews from 1979 with Don Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm

Deleted Scenes

Theatrical trailers and TV spots

Phantasm: Remastered is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming from Well Go USA and can be ordered HERE:


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