Sunday, October 2, 2011

Of Tall Men and Silver's Fears...

Phantasm  (Avco Embassy, 1979)

Before the Camera:

A. Michael Baldwin  (Vice Girls)
Bill Thornbury  (Summer School Teachers)
Reggie Bannister  (Bubba Ho-Tep)
Kathy Lester  (Phantasm III)
Terrie Kalbus  (Kenny and Co.)
Ken Jones  (Hidden Fears)
Lynn Eastman  (Night of the Demon)
Ralph Richmond  (Video Vixens)
Mary Ellen Shaw  (Kenny and Co.)
Angus Scrimm  (The Lost Empire)
The Tall Man

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Don Coscarelli

Produced by Dac Coscarelli and Paul Pepperman

Written by Don Coscarelli

1979 was a terrific year to be a horror film fan. Halloween had hit it big the previous October, and the subsequent year reaped the benefits of a hit film in the genre. Although there were scads of scarepics rushed out to cash in on John Carpenter's classic - there were three that came in and carved their own path that year: The Fog - Carpenter's next after Halloween; Alien - Dan O'Bannon's clever mix of horror film with sci-fi elements; and Don Coscarelli's Phantasm. I guess the latter had been completed in 1977 - it finally garnered a  release through Avco Embassy thanks to Halloween's conversion into a machine to print money; although I think the sheer crazy quality of Coscarelli's movie would have gotten it out into the world eventually on its own.
The movie starts off as many such horror movies do: in a cemetary, and it wastes no time getting down to the business of earning its R rating  - with a sex scene climaxing not in climaxing, but in bloody murder. And we are off! From there we meet the brothers...wait, we never do learn their last names, so we? 
Jody, Reggie, and Mike.

Well, brothers Mike (Baldwin) and Jody (Thornbury) and the tough times they've faced ever since their parents died a year ago. Jody hangs out with his pal, ice cream man Reggie (Bannister) and tells him he is ready to hit the road and do whatever it is footloose guys with guitars would do in the 70's, but he can't leave a kid as young as Mike alone, no matter how self sufficient the kid is. It isn't helping Mike's case that he knows, or at least suspects that Jody is about to make tracks and follows him everywhere. Don't let this domestic drama put you off - it's only a short bit of the running time, and then the scary stuff gets back in the driver's seat. While Jody tries to decide what to do, he's also targeted for more tragedy when one of his best friends turns up murdered in the local cemetary. At the cemetary we meet the local undertaker, a very tall man never named, but referred to very efficiently as The Tall Man (Scrimm). He's a big and creepy cuss, as sinister as you can be without being arrested for it, and he makes quite an impression on Mike, who diverts off Jody's trail long enough to snoop around the Morningside Mortuary. While there, he finds himself under pursuit from The Tall Man, the mortuary's caretaker, and...a really dangerous flying silver sphere...I'm leaving the synopsis there to stay far away from the spoilers...suffice to say...terror lives at Morningside Mortuary, and it comes out to play when Mike and Jody visit...and their lives - and Reggie's - will never be the same...

This movie has some balls, all right.

In this blogger's not-so-humble opinion, it is not easy to make a dreamlike (or nightmarish) movie, and there have been several that have failed miserably. Don Coscarelli - inspired by a real dream he had - gets it right with this movie. The reality within the film is dreamily malleable, just like most of mine. There are also little WTF? moments throughout, which again are a recurring motif in my dreams.

"That's right. He said Horror Icon, boy!"
 The Tall Man is a horror icon that should be put into the Horror Hall of Fame, regardless of how many movies he's been in. Scrimm knows it's Go Big or Go Home, and he goes BIG just perfectly. The rest of the casting is fine; of the three leads Bannister comes off best as the affable Reggie. The other two are okay, though their naturalistic style works well within the 70's framework. The biggest quibble is an inadvertent one for the filmmakers, as the appearance of a supporting character in the movie instantaneously reminds the viewer of a supporting character in another movie - looking like a rip-off. But since the movie was filmed two years previously, the year the other film came out, you have to chalk it up as an unfortunate coincidence, as no one in their right mind would have chosen the resemblance on purpose when you think about it. All in all, Phantasm rates a very high recommendation - it is one of my All Time Faves - and if you give it a watch...maybe it'll be one of yours, too.

LGOOH Halloween Blogfest Blowout Extras!

If you watch a lot of James Bond movies, and you've always found Morningside Mortuary kind of familiar...there's a good reason:

Morningside Mortuary - Phantasm (1979)

The Sutton Mansion - A View to a Kill (1985)
 For the record, that's Dunsmuir House and Gardens - 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, California, USA

And here's a very cool foreign poster for the movie - I think it's the Italian one. I love this poster, even though the image on the poster is not in the movie.

See how the foreign title appears to have been added by way of a piece of black tape?

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At almost exactly the 1:00:00 mark, Mike Baldwin decides he doesn't want any ice cream.

Eye Candy ?

Kathy Lester! You're the Lady in Lavender, and you're in!

I normally try to keep the boys out of the Eye Candy photos,
but when Bill Thornbury photobombs the best pic of the lady
from the movie, there's not much I can do.

Ms. Lester joins my growing pantheon of women attractive
in the day, and holding up extremely well today!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Phantasm is phantastic!"

There you go. And until next we meet, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Regarding the flying silver sphere--it closely resembles a tea bell we keep in the kitchen. Oddly enough, all the other utensils seem to shy away from it. Now I know why.

    Alas, ours isn't outfitted with the Swiss army knife attachments. Or is it...

    And speaking of horror film actresses beautiful then and now...Jamie Lee Curtis just seems to grow more stunning with age. The short silver locks she's sporting nowadays...rock!

  2. You know, one of the Friday the 13th actresses owns a tea company with her husband - Celestial Seasonings, I believe - might be JUST the brand to use in that particular tea bell...yes, Jamie Lee is indeed still a stunner - she certainly was the day on Virus when she introduced me to her "girls!" Did I already tell you that story?