Sunday, October 24, 2010


Last year at this time I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a special 30th Anniversary screening of PHANTASM (1979) written and directed by Don Coscarelli - and attended by the director and several of the film's stars.
This truly unique and captivating supernatural horror classic is best known for introducing two awesome things to American cinema: The Tall Man (played by the menacing Angus Scrimm)......and his deadly silver spheres.
The story goes like this: free-spirited musician Jody Pearson (Bill Thornberry) is saddled with raising his teenage brother.The kid, Mike (Michael Baldwin), is still reeling from strange deaths of their parents.
Jody's pal Tommy has suddenly died after having rough sex with a shapely blond in the cemetery. Mike suspects that the creepy mortician is responsible for all the recent deaths - after all he can lift Tommy's coffin with just one hand!Boy detective Mike figures out that the towering dude has been killing all the good folks of their hometown by disguising himself as a voluptuous blond and seducing them and then turning them into dwarf zombies that look like Jawas from STAR WARS!
Seriously, this is the plotline.
By the way, the Tall Man's fingers ooze yellow blood when they are cut off–then they turn into insects. It's warped, twisted, and totally trippy.
Jody's pal Reggie (Reggie Bannister), a follically challenged musician/ice cream man soon joins the brothers in their pursuit of The Tall Man.
The trio discover a room in the funeral home that is full of canisters containing the dwarfs, who are being sent to another dimension to be slaves. This leads to a spooky mausoleum that houses two silver posts that serve as a gateway to that other dimension.
The Tall Man uses his flying silver spheres to eliminate anyone who gets in his way. The spheres hunt down victims, then attach themselves to their foreheads and drill into the skull, causing blood to spew through a spout. Fun!Before you know it, horny Reggie is seduced and murdered by the blond killer/The Tall Man. Jody locks Michael in his room while he goes to kill The Tall Man, but Michael goes all MacGuyver and escapes by hammering a bullet against the door. The brothers soon devise a plan to lure the Tall Man into a deserted mine shaft and trap him inside.
SPOILER: After apparently successfully eliminating The Tall Man, Mike awakens in his house, with the thought-to-be-dead Reggie sitting next to him - it seems that Mike was simply having a really vivid nightmare, and that his Jody died in a car crash caused by The Tall Man. Reggie convinces Mike to go on a road trip with him.This revelation leads us to believe that the everything we've seen so far has been a dream - until the Tall Man reaches out through a mirror hanging on Mike's closet door, pulling him into the bedroom mirror and possibly another dimension.
I know this sounds totally ridiculous, but it's really a lot of fun. Some disturbing images and shocking scenes give PHANTASM a 10 out 10 in my book.The original score by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave is also quite chilling.

Followed by:* Phantasm II (1988)

* Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)* Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)


Pax Romano said...

I am old enough to recall when this movie came out - it was a must see event! Played the local drive in for months.

As goofy as the plot is, it's also strangely compelling and very scary at times. That damn rubber flying bug that comes out of the drain is a fave of mine.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Unbelianable. I haven't seen this movie since it came out in 1979! As corny as it might sound, it was pretty scary (to a 14 year old at least) and those dam chrome slaughter balls still haunt my dreams. I've tried to explain this movie to my friends before (and I get some really weird looks) now I'll send them you link! THANKS DOUG!