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Phantasm: Remastered (1979) - Blu-ray Review

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Phantasm: Remastered (1979) - Blu-ray Review

5 beersThanks to J.J. Abrams and everyone’s efforts at Bad Robot, I have – to date – watched Phantasm more times in the past 2 months than in the whole of my entire life.  The reasons are clear.  It is, warts and all, one of the most perfect B-movies of all time.  It’s re-release in theaters – now in its celebrated “remastered” format – was something I was initially shocked by and, now, we get to own the fruits of Bad Robot’s labor thanks to this release from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Let it be known that, with this release, I am a very happy boy. 

While fanboys can debate at great length (and they have and will continue to do so) whether or not we needed J.J. Abrams’ help in completing the 4k restoration of this classic horror film, I’m more than happy to roll around in the striking and impressive results.  From its new detailed and crisp picture to its intricate surround sound, the overhaul to create Phantasm: Remastered is a rich and rewarding experience.

There is something strange happening in and around the Morningside funeral home and cemetery.  Two brothers, Mike (Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury), are hearing grunts and growls and catching weird black shapes skirting here and there.  Though no one is near, there is way too much activity in the corners of their eyes.  Something wicked this way comes indeed.  The youngest brother, Mike, is convinced that it is all because of the grumpy mortician stuffed inside ill-fitting suits – otherwise (and more famously) known as The Tall Man (played by the late Angus Scrimm) – and his weird minions.  He just can't exactly prove his theory...yet. 

When the local guitar-plucking ice cream man, Reggie (Reggie Bannister in a hero role created especially for him), gets involved in their ordeal, there have been enough warnings from creepy fortune tellers and bizarre otherworldly encounters that the team of friends has no other choice but to fight against the Tall Man’s future plans.  But can they win against his particular brand of evil?

Full of trippy visuals and lucid nightmares involving shiny dagger-bedazzled silver orbs, much of Phantasm seems foreign and expressive.  It is also wicked as hell.  When it really gets going with its madness, Phantasm never once looks back.  We are left alone to survive its onslaught.   You might not totally "get it" with a single viewing, though.  That's okay.  Repeat viewings are a must with a film as compounded as this one.  

At its best moments, Phantasm is truly existential science fiction seen through a horror lens.  In spite of its challenging narrative structure and its endless "dream" moments, the film manages to strike a nerve in audiences young and old alike and develops a solid meaning that would eventually see it stretch out across four films, with the latest being released just this year (and now available on blu).  That is indeed something remarkable.        

Writer, producer, director, and editor Don Coscarelli is to be praised for the strength of the picture.  Blame him, too, if you don't understand one lick of it.  This is a B-movie that is loved by millions and, as its fans are indeed dedicated animals, proves to be timeless in its influence.  No matter how many times I sit through Phantasm, there is always something new to take away from it.  And that has never before been so clear as it is with this release.  From the not-so random graveyard encounters with topless blonde sirens to the steely black 1971 Cuda with its Carter 1000 cfm Thermoquad Carb, a Pistol-grip 4-Speed Stick, and flared rear fender wells, Phantasm is a towering behemoth of influence that can never be toppled. 

The film’s impact both within and outside of the horror genre is renowned and – to this very day – Coscarelli’s film continues to inspire.  From A Nightmare on Elm Street to the naming of Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens, Phantasm and its metallic death spheres will be in our popular culture forever.  And I don’t mind that at all.

Can we now have Phantasm III and IV on blu?!  Pretty please?  Arrow Video?  Scream Factory?  Anyone?  Phantasm: Remastered is, after all, only a drop in the bucket...

Phantasm: Remastered (1979) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
88 mins
Director
: Don Coscarelli
Writer:
Don Coscarelli
Cast:
A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister
Genre
: Horror | Fantasy
Tagline:
If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead!
Memorable Movie Quote: "You think when you die, you go to heaven. You come to us!"
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 1, 1979
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 6, 2016
Synopsis: A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a lethal arsenal of terrible weapons with him.

Phantasm: Remastered (1979) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Well Go USA
Available on Blu-ray
- December 6, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0; English: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

Well Go USA Entertainment presents Phantasm: Remastered on blu-ray for the very first time with a MPEG-4 AVC 1080p release (in 1.85:1) that proves why the HD format exists.  This is a FANTASTIC-LOOKING release.  The colors are solid and – thanks to the 4K scrub – punctuated.  Black levels are intense and edges hold their shape.  There are several different settings and the transfer handles them all with ease.  Daytime sequences – like the slow-motion shot of The Tall Man walking past Reggie as he takes ice cream out of his truck – are bright and full of textures unseen before.  Night scenes are as detailed.  No crush is seen.  The audio comes in three separate tracks: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, 2.0 Dolby Digital, and mono Dolby Digital.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Ported over from a DVD release, the commentary from writer/director Don Coscarelli and actors Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm, and Bill Thornbury is an oldie but goodie and deserves to be heard.  It’s good that it hasn’t been discarded; I just wish we could get some information on the restoration efforts.

Special Features:

Okay, so the bad news is that there’s no way in hell this release becomes the definitive version to own.  There will be more releases as the supplemental items are a bit lacking in form and function.  What we need is an EPIC blu-ray release with all versiouns of the movie and ALL supplemental items included.  This blu-ray/DVD combo release just seems to be highlighting the fact that Phantasm: RaVager is also out and ready to own.  Things get started with a recent episode of Graveyard Carz, which features the restoration of a car like the Cuda at the center of this tale.  There is also an interview from 1979 with Coscarelli and Scrimm, some deleted scenes, and the original theatrical trailer. A DVD copy is included too.

  • Graveyard Cars
  • Interviews from 1979 with Don Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm
  • Deleted Scenes

Phantasm: Remastered (1979) - Blu-ray Review

 

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