Phantasm( Boxset/ Blu Ray) - Phantasm [Arrow Vidoe UK - 2017]It’s fair to say the Phantasm series of movies are some of the most enduring, creative, and distinctive films to come out of the horror genre- as they masterfully blend together horror, sci-fi, humor, action & real emotionally depth- all in a very balanced & appealing manner. Here from Arrow UK we have one of their most impressive & grand sets thus far….a six Blu-Ray set taking all five on the Phantasm films, loads of extras, a 152-page book, and one of the more classy ‘n’ cool bits of packaging you’ll have seen it quite some time.
The Phantasm franchise started way back in 1979, with the release of the first self titled film. It’s lead characters where teenager Mike, his brother Jody, and their friend Reggie-a balding ice cream seller. The small town where this trio lived is been quietly attacked & pillaged for its dead, by The Tall man- an inter-dimensional grave robber. This tall man takes his victims back to his own red world & shrinks them down dwarf’s, oh and he also controls these silver spears- that drill into people's head. The first films very distinctive, surprisingly un-dated and a perfect blend of coming-of-age drama, ghoulish horror, sc-fi- all wrapped-up in appealing charm.
Through the ensuing four films- 1988’s Phantasm II, 1994’s Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, 1998’s Phantasm IV: Oblivion, and last years Phantasm V: Ravager. We see the battle continue between Mike & Reggie, and the Tall man, and his minions- as they travel through small-town America, the desert, time & other dimensions. Unlike many franchise films, each film in series follows directly on from the often cliff hanger type events of the previous films. Also unlike a lot of franchises the same key cast is kept( expect in the second film), so you have a nice feeling of both continuity & familiarity- yet each film adds new elements & developments to the larger saga/ story. Lastly all but the last film Phantasm V: Ravager, was director/ written by the same person Don Coscarelli(though he still co-wrote Ravager). So once again there is a very keen feeling of both continuum & flow throughout all the five films.
I won’t go into detail & outline the plots of each film here, as I think a series like the Phantasm films are best approached fairly blind- so you get the most out of the stories twists & turns, character development, and the surprises along the way. But as a whole I’d say the series is certainly one the more consistent & balanced of the horror franchises- so you're unlikely to feel disappointed by any of the films, though really to get the most from the series you have to start at the first film, then work your way through…it’s not really a series you can jump in & out of.
What I will discuss of course is the new extras & content on the six discs in this set, the book, and the sets packaging it’s self. So lets begin with the first Phantasm film- to start with we get a brand new 2016 remastering of the film by non-other than J. J. Abrams- we get a 4k restoration, which of course means cleaner & clearer print, as well a new 5.1 soundtrack. We also get a selection of new content- taking in the first part of Reflections of Fear- which is a series of five featurettes ( on each of the five discs)- each of these featurettes last between fifteen & twenty-five minutes, and each features interviews with cast, directors, & effects artists. Next, we have a Q&A panel from the Austin Premiere of Phantasm: Remastered, a full Q&A panel at Los Angeles premiere of the remastered film.
On top of these, we get content brought over from the 2005 Anchor Bay DVD edition of the film, and this takes in: a commentary from director/writer Don Coscarelli, and three of the cast. An introduction to the film by the Tall Man, TV interview from 1979, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, Phantasm: Actors Having a Ball- featurette about the film with interviews from members of the cast & crew, trailers, etc.
Moving onto the second disc & 1988’s Phantasm II- we get the second part of the Reflections of Fear featurettes. And a selection of extras from the Anchor Bay- these take in: a commentary from director/writer Don Coscarelli, and two of the cast. The Ball is Back – archive making-of documentary, The Gory Days – FX artist Greg Nicotero looks back at his work on Phantasm II, deleted & work print scenes, Tall Man Fangoria Convention & TV spots. Trailer & TV Spots
Next we, of course, have disc three & 1994’s Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead- we get the third part of Reflections of Fear featurettes. Plus more extras from the Anchor Bay release- a commentary from director/writer Don Coscarelli & one of the cast. Behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, trailer, and stills.
On disc four we have 1998’s Phantasm IV: Oblivion- we get the fourth part of the Reflections of Fear featurettes. Plus more extras from the Anchor Bay release- a commentary from director/writer Don Coscarelli & two of the cast. Behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, promo, and trailer.
So lastly of the film discs we have Phantasm V: Ravager, and I think as well as discussing the extras it’s worth touching on this recent addition to the franchise- it’s directed by long time series fan David Hartman, who is also an animator & has directed TV in the past, but this is his first feature length film. As mentioned early the film was co-written by Don Coscarelli, so it does very much feel like a continuum of the rest of the series- with the added bonus of Hartman’s animation & effects expertise- meaning you get some quite impressive ( for the budget) effects. The story mainly focuses in on Reggie- the now aging Ice cream salesman- the film flits in & out of several plains of reality- moving between Reggie continue the quest for the Tall Man, Reggie in a home with dementia, and the future/ the tall man's planet. On the whole, I found it a very worthy & thought to provoking addition to the series- with a very strong performances from the returning cast. I'm not sure if you could really coming into this & enjoy it fully, if you haven’t seen the other films & have connection with characters…though there is an option on the Blu Ray to get a brief & amusing reminder of what happened in the other films.
Extras wise on this fifth disc you get a nice selection, and of course these are all new…so you get the last part of the Reflections of Fear featurette, Audio commentary with director David Hartman and writer/producer Don Coscarelli, Los Angeles Premiere footage, Q&A panel from the 2016 Austin Premiere, Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, a selection of introductions from the director, deleted scenes with optional commentary. Bloopers & outtakes, and trailers.
The sixth bonus disc in the set takes in a blend of new stuff & older extras from the Anchor Bay releases. And this new we’ll do the old, then the new…so the biggest extra Phantasmagoria- this just over hour & half doc, pretty much covers everything you’d want to know about Phantasm I-IV, and it’s a very, very interesting doc. Phantasmagorical Mystery Tour – which is the tour of the locations from the films with Reggie The ice cream man, and Phantasm: Genesis – featurette looking at some of the key stunt sequences from the series. Moving onto the new stuff we have Tall Tales- which is a new featurette bringing together unseen footage from the Phantasmagoria doc, focusing on interviews with the Tall man. Dear Angus – a tribute to Angus Scrimm( who played the Tall Man) by long-time friend and collaborator Kristen Deem
So that’s the disc- let's move onto the book. This is a nicely presented paper edition- on it’s cover we get a tinged orange landscape illustration of the Tall Man’s planet, and his dwarf minions dragging along black tubes with newly stolen dead bodies in.
Inside we get around forty pages of new write-ups about the series, a selection of press material for each of the five films, two older articles regarding the franchise, details of the new transfer, and of course a good selection of stills from all of the five films.
Lastly, we get the packaging- this takes in a sturdy box- this features a white marble like effect, which takes in silhouetted staircase like illustrations which take in the tall-man, his minions, and key characters from the film. When you open up the box you get a full-size reproduction of one the tall mans spears, the book, and of course the six discs themselves- which each come in their own four-panel digipaks- with artwork linking into the book cover artwork
There are now two Blu-Ray reissues of the Phantasm series, this one & a USA region version on Well Go . Of the two editions this certainly looks the most impressive with the spear, book, and box- so really if you going to buy one of them I’d go for this Arrow version. All this is another great, great release from Arrow video, and certainly one of the blu ray box set highlights of 2017Roger Batty