PHANTASM - 1979
New Breed Productions,
Inc., Embassy Pictures Corporation,
(Current Distributor) MGM Motion Pictures
USA: Rated R
USA Release: June 1, 1979
If you've never seen any of the PHANTASM* movies, then shame on you! Go out and see PHANTASM, PHANTASM II, PHANTASM
III, and well, okay, go and see PHANTASM
IV. PHANTASM was and still is Writer/Director Don Coscarelli's (PHANTASM [all], BEAST MASTER, SURVIVAL QUEST)
masterpiece. While Coscarelli has never been the best writer, what he
lacked in storywriting ability, he more than made up for in vision. I
mean PHANTASM! WOW!
The movie starts with a graveyard sex scene (yeah I know,
Cool start for any movie!). However, once the sex is over the Lady
In Lavender (Kathy Lester: PHANTASM
III: Lord Of The Dead) stabs her lover Tommy (Bill
Cone) and then turns into an evilly leering weirdo known as The
Tall Man (Angus Scrimm: SWEET KILL [as Rory Guy], PHANTASM [all], SUBSPECIES, WISHMASTER).
This Succubus idea is well thought out, since the succubus of legend is
really a male demon that transforms itself into a female before attacking
Now it is up to our three remaining heroes to discover just what the hell is going
on at Morningside Cemetery and Mortuary; Especially that ultra clean and
sinister mortuary. Our heroes are Jodie (Bill Thornbury:
PHANTASM III, PHANTASM IV), his brother Mike (A. Michael Baldwin: The whole PHANTASM series 'cept II), and my favorite
character of the series Reggie (Reggie Bannister:
The PHANTASM Series, WISHMASTER - Visit the Reggie photo Gallery). These three must uncover the secret of The Tall
Man and it's one wicked secret.
There are particular scenes which also serve as homages to stories/authors that
Coscarelli has read, most particularly Frank Herbert's DUNE series.
At one point, the young brother Mike goes to a fortune teller after he has witnessed
The Tall Man single handedly robbing graves (I mean he pulls out the entire casket all by himself, body and all!).
The Fortune Teller's Granddaughter (Terrie Kalbus) and the Fortune teller herself (Mary Ellen Shaw)
give Mike the old Bene Gesserit Trick of Stick-Your-Hand-In-The-Black-Box ("Ow! Damn that hurts!" "HA! We know! Ha! Whatcha afraid of? Don't be afraid! Ha! Big Baby!") Coscarelli does the whole "don't give into fear" bit without actually saying "Fear is the mind killer!" This small scene
works in Mike's favor for the rest of the movie, as he will come across
some Really Scary Stuff! Things like zombie dwarves, chopped-off dancing
fingers that bleed yellow goo and the infamous flying silver balls, which
do stone-wicked things to one's head!
Is this a well directed movie? Not particularly. Is the script really great? Hardly.
Does the acting really stand out? It doesn't stand out as good acting no.
makes this movie a Damn Good Movie is the chemistry between the actors,
the fact that Coscarelli never misses a chance to throw a well thought
out fright at us (meaning: no stupid cats jumping
out at the actors, but the real get-right-in-your-head and scare ya!),
and the many site gags that are dead on cue at every turn. This is a bizarre
movie, as weird and strange as anything by David Lynch or Clive Barker.
Except that this film never gets lost in the story it tells; and a cool
story it is. Coscarelli and crew take a well worn "Bogeyman"
plot line, strip it to bare bones, and refill it with something so totally
fresh and freaky that no one else has ever been able to duplicate it or
improve upon it. With excellent Cinematography (again
by Don Coscarelli - with a low $300k budget, Don insisted on 35mm shot on Panaflex camera(s) and lenses at a 1.85:1 spherical!) this classic well deserves its 3 Shriek Girls.
As well as it's 3 Neg. Shriek nod toward the So Bad Its Good category.
This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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PHANTASM's 30th birthday is celebrated at the
Big Bear Film Festival.
For Phans of PHANTASM, Read RED PLANET by Rick
Elkin. From the Official and Authorized Phantasm anthology PHANTASM: Excursions Into Oblivion
See Feo at the PHANTASMANIA in Austin, Texas
The Official PHANTASM site
According to the Official PHANTASM site, PHANTASM V: RAVAGER is set for a September 2016 release!
According to the Official PHANTASM site, work began on
PHANTASM V in 1999.
As of August 8, 1999, the PHANTASM folks were still seeking backing and
PHANTASM 1999 was pushed forward to PHANTASM 2000, then 2001 then
2002. As of this writing, 2006, it remains in hiatus.
All Fans of this series should go to the PHANTASM site and let their
voices be heard.
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E.C. McMULLEN Jr.,
GEORGE A. ROMERO,
and many more.
Extensively quoted in
The Unauthorized Companion
Robert S. Rhine's
SATAN'S 3-RING CIRCUS OF HELL
Featuring comics by
E.C. McMullen Jr.
HEAD PRODUCTION DESIGNER
JOSEPH CROSS, ALEX MERAZ, BRIANA EVIGAN)
SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKE-UP
(SFX MUA) and Michael Madsen's stunt double on the movie
A SIERRA NEVADA GUNFIGHT
MICHAEL MADSEN and JOHN SAVAGE).
DOUG JONES, D.B. SWEENEY, GARY GRAHAM)
(Starring COLIN CUNNINGHAM, GARY GRAHAM)