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Phantasm (1979)

 -  Horror | Sci-Fi  -  28 March 1979 (USA)
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 19,101 users  
Reviews: 250 user | 136 critic

A young boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a mysterious arsenal of terrible weapons with him.

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Title: Phantasm (1979)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Mike (as Michael Baldwin)
Bill Thornbury ...
...
Kathy Lester ...
Lady in Lavender
Terrie Kalbus ...
Kenneth V. Jones ...
Caretaker (as Ken Jones)
Susan Harper ...
Girlfriend
Lynn Eastman-Rossi ...
Sally (as Lynn Eastman)
David Arntzen ...
Toby
Ralph Richmond ...
Bartender
Bill Cone ...
Tommy
Laura Mann ...
Double Lavender
Mary Ellen Shaw ...
Myrtle Scotton ...
Maid
...
Edit

Storyline

Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, is afraid to lose his brother. This fear causes him to follow his brother to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lift a coffin on his own. Mike decides to investigate and discovers a horrible world where the Tall Man, along with his flying spheres, shrink the to half their normal size and reanimate them as slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall man. Written by Chris Nickerson <cnicker@bgnet.bgsu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

tall man | funeral | boy | coffin | cemetery | See more »

Taglines:

This ball wants to play with you...for keeps! See more »

Genres:

Horror | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fantasma  »

Box Office

Budget:

$300,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The idea to create the film came about when Reggie Bannister approached Don Coscarelli with the idea to adapt Ray Bradbury's novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), which was to star A. Michael Baldwin and Dan McCann from Kenny & Company (1976). However, the two learned that very week that Bradbury had sold the novel's rights to Disney, and so Coscarelli sought an idea for a similar type of project. See more »

Goofs

You can see the stick making the finger move when its in the box. See more »

Quotes

Mike: There's this door down here. And I bet there's something behind it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The cable TV version has a extra text in the credits that reads "enter the Tall Man's Mausoleum if you dare at www.phantasm.com" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Blood (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Sittin' Here At Midnight
by Bill Thornbury
Thornbury Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Start . . .
15 September 2004 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

Phantasm is one of those movies where you have to look beyond the constraints of a non-existent-budget sci-fi/horror flick to see underlying talent. The film suffers from some hammed up acting, classical 1970s character naivety, make-shift and jimmy-rigged special effects that don't quite work, a score that might as well be a series of MIDI files, and a plot that's all but coherent; however, Phantasm maintains a certain original charm and resourcefulness that larger budget films frequently lack.

The above paragraph really isn't a complaint (despite how it may sound). On the contrary, I'm impressed with what director Don Coscarelli managed to accomplish with the hand dealt to him. Phantasm could have been an utterly forgettable film on all levels, but instead he managed to leave a number of positive impressions.

For one, the frame composition and some key scene transitions transcend budgetary implications (in particular, the Tall Man in the cemetery and the Tall Man slow-motion shot by Reggie's ice cream truck come to mind).

Fred Myrow also comes to the forefront with intriguing and memorable synthetic score. My only complaint on the music is the synthesizer it was performed on sounds like an old 80386 game. Still, the notes played transcends the quality of the instrument it's played on.

Phantasm's trademark bladed sphere effect, however, did genuinely bother me when they stuck into their victim's skulls. The fact that the soon-to-be-dead have no physical reaction after being slapped in the forehead with a fastball goes beyond my ability to suspend disbelief, and to my dismay the effect has never been amended in later sequels. A simple flinch is all that's needed to sell the effect! Something tells me that the effect, as it stands, is part of the Phantasm trademark, part of the Phantasm charm (for the cult followers anyway), and won't ever get a more realistic edge.

Minor silly plot elements aside (Jawa grave robbers, anyone?), my only major gripe deals with the sheer open endedness of the Phantasm universe (vastly exploited in later sequels.) Phantasm is not unlike a comic book, where nothing that happens seems significant since a character can so easily wake up to another reality. Anarchy governs the Phantasm series, no rules apply so reality, fantasy, and parallel universes co-exist in such a fashion that nothing seems to matter anymore. It's like playing a game with Coscarelli in which we must abide by the rules he sets down, and he sets the rules down as he goes when situations apply to him. Why bother playing? Why care?

Still, the film has its charms, and there's something fun in the sinister eye-brow raising and growling Tall Man played effectively by Angus Scrimm. I'd caught bits of Phantasm 3 in the past, and came into this film expecting to hate the Tall Man and this entire franchise, yet I found myself grinning at each of his lines.

I say if someone can look below a cheap and cheesy surface, Phantasm is full of a pleasant surprises.


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