10 Things You Didn't Know... - April 6, 2017

10 Things You Didn’t Know About… Phantasm
by Tom
Tom
by Tom hmv London, Bio hmv.com Editor. Peanut butter, punk rock and pillows.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About… Phantasm

Made for just $300,000 in 1979, Phantasm was the weird brainchild of Don Coscarelli, who would act as director, writer, editor, co-producer and cameraman on the project.

It tells the story of Mike, a young teenager who has just lost both his parents. At their funeral, he witnesses a strange act, a mysterious Tall Man lifting a coffin on his own.

Bewildered by this Mike decides to investigate, and discovers that the Tall Man, protected by his flying spheres, is shrinking dead bodies down to half their normal size and reanimating them as his slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and their friend Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall Man from wreaking havoc on the world.

To make the movie Coscarelli borrowed money from everyone he knew and worked every weekend for a year with a crew consisting mainly of amateurs and first-timers, but, upon release, it was a big, big hit and went on to make $12 million at the box office.

Four sequels then followed the second saw Coscarelli receive ten times the original budget and the support of a major studio, but the three that followed went back to the low budget roots of the original.

The series gets a lavish re-issue this week, with a box set complete with all five movies on Blu-Ray for the very first time, a 4K restoration of the original overseen by the one and only JJ Abrams, a 152-page in-depth book on the movies and much, much more. To see the all the details, click here.

To celebrate the re-release we’ve rounded up 10 things you didn’t know about Phantasm…

 

The story came to writer/director Don Coscarelli in a dream…

Deep asleep in his late teens, the idea for Phantasm came to Coscarelli. The dream saw the young Coscarelli running away down endlessly long marble corridors, pursued by a chrome sphere intent on penetrating his skull with a needle. Doesn’t sound like a particularly good night’s sleep, but great inspiration for a horror film...

 

In Turkey, the movie had a very different title…

When the movie dropped in Turkey, it was given the title of Manyak, which translates to Psycho, quite a different pitch to Phantasm...

 

Making the tall man seem so tall was a big challenge…

Actor Angus Scrimm was already pretty tall when he got the role of The Tall Man, standing 6’4 in all, but that wasn’t enough for Coscarelli, so to make Scrimm seem extra huge he made him wear suits several sizes too small for him and boots with lifts inside that added three inches to his height.

 

A.Michael Baldwin despised the sequel…

Baldwin, who starred as Mike in the first movie, was severely put out when Universal Pictures, who picked up the rights for the Phantasm sequel, decided to go for a new Mike for the next movie. When asked about the movie in subsequent years, Baldwin described it as "the film which shan't be named" and has stated in a podcast interview that he considers it a terrible movie.

 

Brad Pitt auditioned for a role in Phantasm II…

When Coscarelli reluctantly agreed to cast a new Mike, he held open auditions and a young Pitt was one of the hopefuls. In the end, the role went to James LeGros, who go on to star in Girls, Justified and Sleeper Cell later in his career.

 

Reggie Bannister gave up acting altogether after Phantasm but came back for the sequel…

It was nine years between the two movies and Bannister hadn’t done any acting in the time in between - he had, in fact, worked in a funeral home for most of it. Suitably morbid...

 

But he returned for the rest of the franchise…

There has never been a Phantasm movie without Bannister. In fact, Coscarelli was told by Universal that for Phantasm II he could either keep Bannister or Baldwin for the sequel, he chose Bannister...

 

Roger Avary wrote a Phantasm movie that never saw the light of day…

Roger Avary, who helped Quentin Tarantino write Pulp Fiction, was a huge fan of the series and wrote an epic screenplay originally called Phantasm 1999 A.D. Coscarelli liked it and was keen to get behind it, unfortunately, it was costed up at $10 million to produce and no one put up the cash, so it’s still sat in a drawer somewhere...

 

The fifth movie was Angus Scrimm’s final film…

We returned to the world of Phantasm for a fifth time with 2016’s Phantasm: Ravager. Coscarelli stepped back to allow David Hartman to direct and co-write the script, but he did get a final performance from Scrimm. Sadly he died at the start of 2016 and did not get to see the film hit cinemas...

 

JJ Abrams is a huge fan and the movie even inspired a character in The Force Awakens…

Abrams has talked up his love of Phantasm for the last decade and has had Coscarelli visit his own Bad Robot production house to talk to staff and host screenings. Abrams then paid Coscarelli the ultimate tribute when he named Captain Phasma, Gwendoline Christie’s stoic imperial guard, after the movie.


Phantasm is re-released in a brand new box set on April 24th and is available to pre-order here in hmv’s online store.

Phantasm Collection 1-5 Limited Edition
Phantasm Collection 1-5 Limited Edition Don Coscarelli

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