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Old 04-12-2007, 10:47 PM
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Default Phantasm III (AB vs. AB UK)




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: April 12, 2007

Released by: Anchor Bay NA, Anchor Bay UK
Release date: 4/10/2007, 10/31/2005
MSRP: $19.98, £14.99
Region 1, NTSC (NA), Region 2, PAL (UK)
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes




Phantasm, is one of those great little franchises that, like only a handful of others, evolved exclusively with its original creator. Like Romero’s Dead series, or (for Dave’s sake) Nicolaou’s Subspecies series, the Phantasms have thankfully, uniquely, remained in director Don Coscarelli’s hands. While most other franchises start to turn sour after the sequel, Coscarelli’s was just beginning to find new legs. What began as one boy’s brutal nightmare evolved into an action film with the least likely of heroes. Reggie, little more than support in the first film, became the anti-hero du jour in Phantasm II, what with his bald head, ponytail and job as an ice cream vendor. Instead of trying to redo the original, like so many ill-fated sequels, Phantasm II looked within the first film to find a new hero and a new direction. It ended with a bang (literally), and then came Phantasm III.

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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK



Anchor Bay has finally released this on DVD for the first time in North America, having earlier done so with their great sphere box set in the UK. How do the discs compare, and more importantly, is III one ball too many?


The Story


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


Phantasm III picks up right where the second left off, with Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and Michael (this time played by A. Michael Baldwin from the original) running from the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his set of shiny balls. Michael’s been hospitalized, but even the nurses are out to get him, as the Tall Man has possessed many of the townspeople. He’s even got Mike’s dead older brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury) under his spell, as Jody attempts to setup Reg and Mikey. Armed with his double double barreled shotgun, Reg does away with the killer ball, but the Tall Man is still able to steal Michael away from him. Thus begins Reggie’s road trip, as he treks along the Oregan plain, trying to find his buddy and dismiss of the Tall Man once and for all.


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


Reggie won’t be alone this time, however, as he first stumbles into a tiny tyke who has assembled a house of booby traps that would make the tenants of The People Under the Stairs proud. Tiny Tim (Kevin Connors), lost his parents to the Tall Man, and has since been hiding out in his house, preparing himself for confrontation. After he dispatches of a few criminals out for Reggie, the two team up and head out for vengeance. They head to the biggest mortuary in the country (where else would the Tall Man be?), and find one more member for their party. Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry), is no ordinary accomplice, however. With a crew cut, army pants and a set of nunchucks, she makes G.I. Jane look Nell. So what we have is a bald, ex-ice cream vendor, a Macaully Culkin knock-off, and a butch African American leading lady. Curly, Larry and Moe, they ain’t.


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


They travel together, and Reggie continually tries to get some from Rocky, but the only coming that will occur will be the Tall Man close on their tail. They finally end up in the Tall Man’s layer, where much of his raison d’etre is finally expounded. Michael is still captive, and the Tall Man has even implanted a silver sphere in his brain in hopes of controlling him. That doesn’t deter the motley crew though, and they dispatch of creatures, zombies and a shitload of balls to finally face off with the man of great height. Like any Phantasm though, the end is really only just the beginning…


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


What made Phantasm II so fresh was the discovery of Reggie Bannister as an unorthodox action hero. In an era of Schwarzeneggers, Stallones and Van Dammes, it was refreshing to see a take-no-prisoners tough guy with a less than iconic physique. Bald, with a pony tail and a down-to-earth demeanor, he was really the last person you’d expect to be a hero. Not only was Bannister the perfect find, Coscarelli also did him well by treating him seriously. There was no mocking of his appearance or his former ice cream job; he was badass, and the film believed in him. Here, in Phantasm III, Coscarelli unfortunately gives into popular opinion by mocking Bannister’s unlikely leading man appearance by jokingly having him shot down by women and turning him into a horny do-nothing. Sure, Bannister is still a blast to see here, but Coscarelli takes the easy road in using him for the brunt of cheap jokes.


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


The jokes, actually, are what most fans peg as the major detractor to this third film. Easily the most tongue-in-cheek of the series, the film sort of comes out of the awkward early-nineties, where the aftertaste of the eighties threw “horror” as a serious term into limbo. Phantasm III has jokingly caricatured leads, gory and over-the-top death sequences, self-conscious one-liners and the sexual slapstick that could easily elevate the film to comedy were it not about an alien hell-bent on drilling through everyone’s heads. While the comedy certainly takes the series sometimes to outlandish levels, to Coscarelli’s credit, much of it is well played. Compared to the original, the comedy weakens the impact of the series’ social space. Yet, compared to the morose proceedings of the fourth, and by far weakest Phantasm film, the comedy isn’t all that bad.


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


From the intended comedy and just the whole story in general, this is destined to be a wilder experience than all the others in the series. The gore is aplenty and apretty, the pacing easily the tightest in the series, and the climax packs more balls and Tall Man than has ever been shown before. Scrimm’s overly theatrical leer still steals every scene, and remarkably the more Tall Man the merrier, whereas in most franchises the more the villain is seen the less scary he becomes. Coscarelli has been meticulous in developing the Tall Man’s lair and his evil world that his background here really is interesting to see. You’ll never cry boredom here either, since for better or worse, the film plot is constantly turning on a hairpin, offing characters, bringing them back, and running into one bizarre scenario after another.


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


Phantasm III may be no Phantasm, or even Phantasm II, but compared to second sequels from most other horror franchises, this one deserves major kudos. The series has thankfully always remained in the hands of Don Coscarelli, and his vision of this surreal world and his dedication to his motley cast of characters, has always made the series seem more authentic than most. Coscarelli’s talent as an artist is evident here especially, considering the robust entertainment he was able to deliver here on a shoestring of Phantasm II’s budget. Hopefully with this new release Phantasm III will be rediscovered, and that, coupled with his success with Bubba Ho-Tep and on Masters of Horror, Coscarelli can finally bring the series back in true form, rather than the mix tape that was the underfunded Phantasm: OblIVion.

Image Quality


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Anchor Bay NA
Anchor Bay UK


Hands down, Anchor Bay’s new North American DVD trounces their PAL release in all sectors. Immediately evident is the sharpness the new disc gains over the old, but also apparent is the improved contrast, bringing the picture down to a darker level, where the blacks are now deep rather than the greyed ones present in their PAL release. The PAL release also received derision at the time for being stretched somewhat, and here in these screen caps, the differences are very noticeable. Not only is the Region 1 disc at the proper aspect ratio, but it is also framed better, opening up some needed information that was lost on the top of the screen for the PAL release. Saturation is better this time around too, with skin tones looking more lifelike the second time around, compared to the overly-red look of the PAL disc. A winner on all counts, and a major improvement over the previous disc, this is a beautiful new transfer.

Sound

The sound is the same from the previous PAL sphere, which is to say it sounds crystalline. The new Region 1 disc is without the DTS track unfortunately, but that track is little different than the Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here. Both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 options, on whatever release you listen to, make a fair use of the surrounds. Discreet effects can be heard when the balls are whizzing by, or when the Tall Man walks with that echoing clank to his raised dress shoes. The opened soundstage is noticeably effective during an early scene with Reggie and those little druid creatures, as they taunt him from the trees and seemingly all the speakers. None of the effects are overly gimmicky, and should keep fans and purists happy. If the purists want to listen to its original Dolby Digital 2.0 track, well, then can too. Even with the exclusion of the DTS track from the PAL release, this new disc still has a wonderful sound design.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageThere isn’t much difference between the two DVDs in terms of supplements. Both have the commentary with A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm, both have behind-the-scenes footage, and both have the theatrical trailer. The PAL has a gallery and biographies, while the NTSC has the Phantasm trailer and a few others, so the differences are really give and take. Like with the previous Phantasm NTSC Anchor Bay release, the extras for this new disc are enhanced to anamorphic.

inline ImageThe commentary with the two stars is a welcome reunion between the two actors, and is a whole lot of fun. Scrimm has a good memory (or at least plenty of cue cards) detailing actors, locations and events from the film, while Baldwin offers a more colorful commentary on scenes and conjures up a few more personal memories. Both participants gel well with their different roles here, and they certainly make the time fly. Coscarelli’s absence is definitely a notable detriment, but even still, this track holds up well on its own merits. The behind-the-scenes montage doesn’t have much depth, since it is just assembled clips, basically, from the Phantasmagoria documentary on the PAL disc. It does showcases a lot of the locations filmed in the movie though, and has a few memorable bits like an exploding head stunt, and Angus Scrimm walking from the makeup room to set with a large spear through his chest.

inline ImageThe North American DVD also has what has to be the most piddly deleted scene hyperbole has ever seen, running a full twelve seconds. By the time the fade in and out is finished, it is basically the Tall Man taking three steps. But what glorious steps they are. Those who have the UK box set will find a large portion of the Phantasmagoria documentary dedicated to the third film, but that is only on the bonus disc. Overall though, the supplements on either release are a nice tribute to an already undervalued film.


Final Thoughts

Phantasm III, despite its jokier approach and constant undercutting of the once proud anti-hero, Reggie, is more similar to the action-packed Phantasm II than it is the haunting original. With turns at every corner, plenty of inventive deaths and effects, and the characters we all love to see, this second sequel does the Phantasm name proud. Anchor Bay’s new disc has done the film proud too, with a beautiful image restoration (even compared to the PAL disc) and the still solid Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The PAL disc has DTS and the Phantasmagoria documentary, but the behind-the-scenes montage and the ported commentary more than serve the North American disc fine. A solid follow-up to the second film, and a fun film in its own right, Phantasm III comes recommended both to those new to the series and for those who already sprung for the PAL set.

Rating

Movie - B+

Anchor Bay NA
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A-
Supplements - B+

Anchor Bay UK
Image Quality - B-
Sound - A-
Supplements - B (standalone), A- (boxset)

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour and 31 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English DTS 5.1 (UK only)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Surround 2.0

Supplements
  • Commentary with A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm
  • Deleted Scene (NA only)
  • Behind-the-scenes montage (NA only)
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Still gallery (UK only)
  • Biographies (UK only)
  • Bonus trailers (NA only)

Other Pictures

 

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Old 04-13-2007, 12:10 PM
They stay the same age...
How sweet, dark meat.
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Old 04-15-2007, 03:52 AM
Satan is Our Pal
It's criminal that Netflix only (and inexplicably) has Phanstam IV: Oblivion available. I've never seen 3. Once again, great job on the comparisons, rhett. Another entertaining review.
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Well as the video explains, I do not think it is a great film, nor do I think.
 
 
Old 04-17-2007, 09:29 PM
Happy Trees Motherfucker!
great review. i noticed when i bought it today it said "uncut", what is different from this one and the R rated version? i looked on IMDB and it didn't say anything.
 
 

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