Some men are destined to tell an epic story; Lucas has his Star Wars, Stephen King has his Dark Tower, and Don Coscarelli has the world of Phantasm – which, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, is the best horror franchise hardly anyone in the U.S. has ever seen. I mean, sure, most horror fans have at least seen the first film, but, thanks to much legal red tape, the second chapter, as of this writing, is still not available on DVD in the States, while the third chapter, Lord of the Dead, has only just been released (thanks to Anchor Bay). That basically left a huge gap between the original film and the hugely underrated and underappreciated Phantasm IV: Oblivion (an essentially meaningless film if you’ve not seen parts II and III).
While Anchor Bay wasn’t able to wrangle away the rights to part two from Universal, they’ve definitely furthered the cause by not only bringing Phantasm III to DVD, but also by inducting the original film into their very classy new “Collection” series, which will hopefully serve as the definitive launching point for a new legion of Phans.
If you’ve not seen Phantasm, you owe yourself to make it a point to pick up this disc pronto, as this is truly essential stuff for horror fans. In a time in which everyone was looking for the next big slasher film, Coscarelli fashioned an ambitious Sci-Fi/horror universe, equal parts Bradbury and Bava, and populated it with some of the most well-realized and richly defined characters the genre has ever seen.
The story of two brothers; Jody, a well-traveled musician with a hunger for life on the road, and Mike, the teenager terrified of losing his elder sibling so soon after the death of their parents, serves as the launching point for the greater tale of an invasion of a literal body snatcher and his minions. While the term “Nightmare Logic” was coined to describe the delirious nature of the work of Dario Argento, I feel that it goes a long way when I explain Phantasm to those who haven’t seen it; the film looks and feels very much like a nightmare, and the effect is so thoroughly convincing and absorbing that the viewer cannot help but be sucked into Coscarelli’s well-woven tale. The film ends abruptly, as it is obvious that its creator is by no means done telling his story, and, nearly thirty years later, he still isn’t.
Phantasm is one of the inaugural titles in Anchor Bay’s Collection series; a set which promises to give fans the most feature-packed and highest quality versions of the crème de la crème of genre titles. In the case of Phantasm, Anchor Bay had to really step it up as the title has long been available in a fairly well-stocked DVD from MGM, so to really make this one a special edition, the company gathered up loads of new goodies never before seen in the U.S., including the thirty minute “Phantasmagoria” retrospective, vintage interviews and convention footage, deleted scenes and making-of footage, Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Don Coscarelli and Stars Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury, and more.
I can’t recommend the Phantasm franchise enough as I feel that it is, without a doubt, the classiest and most engrossing series the genre has ever seen. Anchor Bay’s lavish treatment of this and the third film gives hardcore Phans reason to rejoice, and also offers new viewers a chance to see these films as the director intended them to be seen, as well as an abundance of extra material that thoroughly fleshes out Don Coscarelli’s truly unique and fascinating vision. Consider this a must-have.