Phase IV (1974) Poster

(1974)

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2/10
Ant music
Prismark1019 April 2016
Saul Bass is better known as a title designer rather than a film director on his own right. This film provides the answer why. If you are afraid of ants then stay away.

The film with its set design wants to reflect the symbolism of 2001: A Space Odyssey with its giant towers and action inside a dome like laboratory somewhere in the Arizona desert.

A colony of ants have somehow gained heightened intelligence and are manipulating events so local people leave the area. Two scientists remain examining and conducting experiments on the ants and rescue a young woman wandering around. However the ants are using their collective intelligence to torment and play mind games on the people.

I can see that this film has a cultish following. Not a giant ant or a man in a rubber costume in sight. It wants to be enigmatic and perplexing, it suddenly ends leaving you puzzled.

I found the whole thing dull, poorly acted with Nigel Davenport and Michael Murphy desperately trying to rescue this mess of a film.
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9/10
Where do you belong?
kosmasp29 July 2020
A general question (concerning the movie and its ... inhabitants), but also a question you can ask when it comes down to the genre of the movie itself. Is it Science Fiction? Is it (animal) horror? Is it borderline documentary? Especially the first few minutes might suggest the latter.

It's a weird introduction to a movie, that is also very weird. That is even weirder if you attach the original even better ending to it (I think I would even go 10/10 with that added). It is only an addition to the existing ending, but what an addition it is! It dives and delves deeper into what the movie is about message wise (ecologically speaking, but also evolutionary speaking) ... so many layers. Still for "modern" audiences I can see how some may not have the patience to watch this through. The pacing is slow - really slow. But imhp it does work
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4/10
"I did not sign up for a war against a bunch of g.. d... ants!"
classicsoncall11 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I have a default category for movies like this that says - someone, somewhere at some time must have thought this was a good idea for a picture. Paying fairly close attention, I really didn't get the point of this story if there was one, and even by reading the reviews of other folks on this board I'm not getting a clear picture of what this was supposed to be about. There's a pretty good post left by user 'Dr. Wily' in the reviews section, but even after his astute analysis, he comes up with the same conclusion - which is, try to come up with your own. The movie makes as much sense as an old joke it reminded me of as I considered the subject matter. Ready? Say 'dead ant' ten times real fast....

Hi-yo Silver, away!!!!
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7/10
Ants of the Future...
gavin694218 May 2016
Desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on the desert inhabitants. It is up to two scientists and a stray girl (Lynne Frederick) they rescue from the ants to destroy them. But the ants have other ideas.

The interiors of the film were shot at Pinewood Studios in England and the exterior locations were shot in Kenya, though the film is set in the Arizona desert in the United States. The Kenya aspect is a bit unexpected, but as much of the film is indoors, it could have been anywhere (England or otherwise).

This is the first film to depict a geometric crop circle, in this case created by super-intelligent ants. The film predates by two years the first modern reports of crop circles in the United Kingdom, and it has been cited as a possible inspiration or influence on the pranksters who started this phenomenon. Interesting...

The one thing about this film I didn't like was the annoying high-pitched segment. Wow, that was awful. But the general concept is great, and I enjoy how some parts are left ambiguous... we need not know every detail about the space phenomenon and the evolution of the ants...
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8/10
Offbeat and intriguing 70's sci-fi oddity
Woodyanders9 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Colonies of ants suddenly band together and form a mass collective intelligence that threatens mankind's status as the dominant species on the planet. Coldly pragmatic scientist Ernest D. Hobbs (an excellent performance by Nigel Davenport), his earnest assistant James R. Lesko (a solid and likable Michael Murphy), and frightened teenager Kendra Eldridge (a sweet and appealing portrayal by the ravishing Lynne Frederick) must figure out a way to stop the ants before it's too late. Director Saul Bass, working from a quirky and interesting script by Mayo Simon, tells the fascinatingly bizarre story at a deliberate pace, maintains a solemn cerebral tone throughout, and concludes the film on a boldly enigmatic note. Moreover, there's a pleasing ambiguity to the narrative; no explanation is ever provided for exactly how and why the ants have become so cunning and organized. Another key triumph of this movie is the way it manages to make the ants seem extremely alien and unknowable, yet somehow still familiar and strangely sympathetic at the same time. The dry and desolate locations convey an eerie feeling of isolation and vulnerability. Dick Bush's stunning cinematography boasts a wealth of remarkable visuals, with the breathtaking micro-photography in particular of the ants and their perfectly structured society rating as truly something to behold. Brian Gascoigne's spare groovy score further enhances the overall off-kilter vibe. Those seeking cheap thrills and obvious jump out at you formulaic shocks will be deeply disappointed. But if low-key, smart, and ambitious out of the ordinary sci-fi fare flies your proverbial kite, then you should find this minor cult item to be a rewarding viewing experience.
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7/10
Ants in the Pants! ... For Real!!
Coventry21 October 2007
"Phase IV" is unquestionably one of the (perhaps THE) most intelligent and ambitious ecological horror efforts of the entire 70's decade. With its unusual but compelling narrative structure, it almost feels like you're watching a documentary on the National Geographic channel, only it's a truly horrific and disturbing one. Few creatures on this earth look less menacing than the ant, but "Phase IV" gives us a lot more insight on their intellectual capacities and their abilities to communicate with each other, and I can safely say I will never look at ants the same way again. The film also proves that size certainly doesn't always matter! In the adaptation of H.G. Well's "Empire of the Ants", the animals were gigantic (as well as laughably cheesy) and therefore the complete opposite of frightening. In "Phase IV", the ants maintain their normal proportions, they're probably always filmed with a microscope attached to the camera, and that's what makes the horror so much more realistic. As you can guess from the title, the film is divided into four parts. Phase I concerns the establishment of a severe ecological disturbance, and by the time Phase IV gets reached, the entire human race is in lethal danger. An eminent biologist discovers that the ants of the Arizonan desert have optimized their defense mechanisms. So punctually even that all their natural enemies (like the tarantula spider and the mantis) have vanished from the area. He sets up a laboratory, along with an expert in the field of translating animal communication, and together they witness how the ants slowly take over control. The film is slow and rather tame in the action department, but it thrives on a brooding atmosphere and an amazingly unsettling sense of realism. The idea behind the film is creepy because absolutely nothing explains WHY the ants are revolting. There's usually something to justify the animals' angry behavior, whether ongoing pollution or nuclear experiments, but in "Phase IV" the ants simply take over humanity because they have the power to do so. Now that's something to ponder about. It was probably the last film that ever deserved to receive the notorious (and feared) MST3K-treatment, as there's nothing even remotely negative about the film.
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10/10
Mind blowing
BandSAboutMovies2 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I've always wanted to watch Phase IV, the lone directorial effort of famed graphic designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Saul Bass. Bass was best known for his title sequences, including the animated cut-outs Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm and his groundbreaking graphic design work on Hitchcock's North by Northwest and Psycho. He also designed some of the most iconic logos in history, including AT&T, Warner Brothers and United Airlines.

Starting in the 1960's, Bass moved beyond creating title sequences for films to visualizing, storyboarding and even directing key scenes and sequences. He'd get a strange credit for this: visual or pictorial consultant. On some films (like Spartacus, where he designed the gladiator school and storyboarded the final battle) he simply set things up for the director. On others, like West Side Story, where he filmed the prologue, storyboarded the opening dance and created the end titles, he set up the full direction the film would take. And on Psycho, Bass was integrally involved in that films shower murder sequence, going so far to create the boards and test footage that convinced Hitchcock how the scene should be shot.

This leads us to the only movie that Bass would direct on his own, 1974's Phase IV. A failure upon release, it finally found an audience via television and video. It's also the first film to depict a geometric crop circle, predating the first crop circles that were found in the UK.

A cosmic event has caused ants to undergo rapid evolution and a hive mind that scientists are struggling to investigate. Within the desert, those ants have created large towers and geometrically perfect designs that force the locals to abandon the area, except for one family.

Scientists James Lesko (frequent Robert Altman actor Michael Murphy) and Ernest Hubbs (Nigel Davenport, the original voice of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) have set up a sealed dome to study the ants, as well as house the aforementioned family that has not left. Soon, they are at war with the much more organized and effective ants.

After the ants invade the lab, one of the townspeople, Kendra (Peter Sellers' widow Lynne Frederick, who also appears in Schizo and Four of the Apocalypse) becomes convinced that the ants are angry at her. Bass was obsessed with ensuring that Frederick had no trace of her British accent in this film, making her run her lines over and over again. She also had to wear a tight corset so that she could appear sixteen years old instead of her real age, twenty. Also of note, Linda Blair was almost cast in the film but the budget couldn't afford her.

Kendra abandons the lab, sacrificing herself to save everyone else as Hubbs and Lesko argue over how to best deal with the ants. Lesko wants to communicate with them while Hubbs wants to destroy them before being stung to death and falling into a hole. Lesko decides to follow Hubbs plan and destroy the queen, but instead, he finds Kendra alive. He decides that the ants don't want to destroy the human race, but instead make their two worlds work together.

Originally, Bass filmed a four-minute long montage sequence that ended the film, showing what life on new Earth would be like and how evolution would change Lesko and Kendra. This was cut by the distributor and would not be seen until 2012.

This is the kind of movie that could only be made in 1974. This is a pre-blockbuster big movie unafraid to suddenly have long moments of gorgeous music and long elegiac shots of insects going about their daily lives. The moments of human interaction feel boring by comparison. From the posters for the film, audiences were probably expecting a Bert I. Gordon style film and were rewarded with a trippy meditation about mankind's place in the cosmic consciousness.

Obviously, this film is a major influence on Panos Cosmatos' first film, Beyond the Black Rainbow. It was also one of the first movies featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the KTMA era.
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8/10
A mature and arresting sci-fi effort.
Hey_Sweden26 January 2014
Famed title designer Saul Bass made his feature length directing debut with this offbeat film that offers a fresh alternative to the giant insect pictures of the atomic age. It's short on action and long on dialogue and atmosphere; it's definitely an animal attack film for the thinking person, but is fascinating in a surreal, mind bending way. The visuals are most impressive (Bass and cinematographer Dick Bush take full advantage of the isolated rural settings) and the performances quite sincere. The cast features a bare minimum of human characters and a host of ants visible through insect photography supervised by Ken Middleham. The music by Brian Gascoigne is eerie and effective.

Due to a mysterious cosmic event, ant life on Planet Earth is going through radical changes. They're now more intelligent than they've ever been, and are building odd structures in the desert. Sent to study the phenomena are two scientists, James R. Lesko (a likable Michael Murphy) and Ernest Hubbs (the always solid Nigel Davenport). Adding to their problems is the appearance of local farm girl Kendra Eldridge (played by the beautiful, appealing Lynne Frederick), whose family was besieged by the ant aggressors.

Bass dares to have this story take its time, but offers the viewer an interesting tale (written by Mayo Simon) with far reaching possibilities. The situation just grows more and more hopeless for our weary heroes, who try to establish communication with the ants. This leads to a very striking finale that fits right in with other resolutions in 1970s cinema. The animal action is excellent and there's one particularly great moment involving a praying mantis. One intense set piece as Kendra's family attempts to flee is riveting stuff.

Film buffs take note: Helen Horton, who plays farm woman Mildred Eldridge, was the voice of Mother in "Alien" five years later.

Eight out of 10.
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9/10
A Beautiful and Little Seen Cult Classic…Disturbing and Distinctive
LeonLouisRicci10 January 2016
By the Late Sixties and Early Seventies Sci-Fi took on a more Intellectual, Serious Concern about Our place in the Universe and Our place right here on Terra-Firma. This is one of those and one of the best. An underrated, little-seen Thriller with its Elegant Cinematography and Great Insect Footage remains a Thought-Provoking and wholly engaging Film.

Directed by Famous and Award Winning Graphic Title Designer Saul Bass, combining stunning scenery and SFX with an Ominous Musical Score, the Movie is an Unnerving Unraveling of an event puzzling Scientists and could be a Foreboding of Things to Come.

It's well Acted, save the Girl, and the Tension at times is unbearable. Some have said the the Ending is Ambiguous, but not really. The Voice-Over tells what happened and what is most likely going to happen. It's a bit Mysterious but a Solid wrap-up and is very disturbing.

A tight little Thriller in the "Bug" Genre as the Little Creatures provide Unending Story lines and Fascination. A Cult Classic.
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It LOOKS good, but...
Wizard-813 February 2016
After hearing over the years a number of positive things about this cult movie - such as it being the feature length debut for title designer Saul Bass - I was sure to catch a viewing of it when recently it played on Turner Classic Movies. After actually watching it, though, I was kind of mystified by its strong cult status. My guess is that a lot of its fan base consists of people who indulge in certain narcotics. That's because the movie is filled with admittedly strong visuals, ranging from extremely close up photography of insects to desert landscapes. The look of the movie does have some compelling power. However, it isn't enough to hide the fact that the script has some major weaknesses. The human characters are kind of vague and undefined, and the story has some plot points that are not properly explained. Had these script weaknesses been corrected before filming started, we might have had something here, but as it is, the movie is for the most part just (admittedly) pleasant eye candy.
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7/10
Strikingly Weird Film.
AaronCapenBanner23 September 2013
Michael Murphy and Nigel Davenport play two scientists studying the recent peculiar behavior of ants after a strange outer space phenomenon has occurred. They rescue a young woman(played by Lynne Frederick) who has survived an ant attack that destroyed her family and farm. Seems the(normal) sized ants have evolved into a collective intelligence, and are studying them as well, in the next step of mutual evolution...

Weird(to say the least)film is nonetheless quite original and intelligent; seems to be partially inspired by "2001: A Space Odyssey", and though not a masterpiece, still contains some quite striking visual imagination and ambition(courtesy of director Saul Bass) and a mind-bending ending that gives much to ponder. A thought-provoking Sci-Fi film that deserves to be better known.
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6/10
One of the most vague killer ant movies ever!
Aaron137524 November 2014
I watched this film again for the first time in many many years. I watched it with my fiancé and she told me, "That was strange..." I then referenced a Family Guy episode that talked about one of those old 70's science fiction films with the ambiguous endings and said, "This is a near perfect example of one of those and the music is just like one of those!" Yes, this film is a bit ambiguous, a bit vague and it is also very unique. Not like other ant films of the times, the ants here are no simple killers like in the movie where the ants overrun a hotel nor does this one feature giant ants like in Them or Empire of the Ants. No, here the ants are becoming more intelligent and the changes subtle at first as the first five or so minutes of the film almost play out like a nature documentary. My fiancé asked me during this stretch whether there were any human characters at all in it, which soon answered itself when a truck was shown driving along the rode.

The story, basically has a planetary alignment causing problems. Not in the form of massive worldwide disasters, but in a more subtle way. Ants, seem to be communicating in ways thought impossible as they begin to communicate with every species all working together. A scientist who has been studying this phenomenon and a man who is good at cracking puzzles and codes head to a facility in Arizona where they are going to try and figure out what is happening and how much of a threat the ants may pose. Unfortunately, a family that had been ordered to evacuate remains and their staying will end up causing a lot of problems that put the men behind in their studying of the ants and the ants seem a lot more capable of survival and fighting everything the humans throw at them!

I am not going to say this film is a favorite of mine. I will not even say it is my favorite killer ant movie as I like Empire of the Ants more, though it is admittedly more cheesy. This one is very unique though and interesting. I just do not like certain elements to it. It is a bit strange; though, I was able to understand it more this time than I was the first time I saw it as a kid and that scene where the scientist falls into the hole is a bit creepy. It also had creepy scenes where they showed the ants doing stuff. Strangely effective scenes. Still, just needed a bit more to bring it all together...definitely more science fiction than horror.
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5/10
Good ideas, but dull execution
The_Void18 September 2006
This odd little Sci-Fi film takes the common 'when animals attack' horror theme, but instead of making them giant or an animal that usually attacks humans, this time it's just ants that are the focus. Of course, the idea of ants attacking humans had already been done two decades earlier with the classic monster movie 'Them!' back in 1954. However, this is not merely a retread of old grounds, as the ants here attack using the power of combined intelligence rather than new a found increase in size. This is all well and good, as the film is rather original and it stands apart from other films of a similar nature; but all in all, the 1954 film was far more entertaining and not nearly as flat. The plot focuses on a pair of scientists; one of which a man who has noticed that common ants have started becoming more intelligent. We then follow the pair, and a girl that they saved, as they study the ants inside a lab in the desert. However, the ants aren't happy about being studied, and begin to use their collective powers to torment the three people inside the lab.

I respect the fact that the filmmakers obviously had a lot of ideas for this film, but most of them aren't well executed, making it; to me at least, a film full of missed opportunity. Director Saul Bass seems to care more about close-up photography than character development or plot, as he delights in capturing magnified shots of the ants, but forgets to almost everything else. The close-up photography is good, but I thought I was in for a horror film, not a documentary on insect life. The film does get off to a good start, and ideas touched upon at the start are brought forward later on. The ant is a fascinating creature, and given their organisation prowess; if an insect was to threaten human life on a mass scale, I'm sure it would be ants…but as there isn't much horror to go with this idea; so the film is never very terrifying. The ending is completely ambiguous, but it also feels rather lazy, as the film ends before we get any explanation as to why the ants suddenly got clever, and so the whole film turns out to be rather pointless. Still, at least it was somewhat original.
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8/10
Still Entertaining!
Sylviastel12 April 2014
Nigel Davenport should have knighted for his services to drama. In this film, he plays a scientist out to study ants in the Arizona desert. Michael Murphy is great as the reasonable voice. Lynne Frederick's Kendra is never fully explained in the movie. I caught this film a few times but still have questions about it. The director and cinematographer did an excellent job. It's not your average thriller with cheap shots! In fact, the cast is concise where all the characters serve a purpose. The desert ants have a mind of their own and are more evolved and intelligent! I still don't get how they dominate the humans. We only know the three phases but not the fourth. The ending is never fully explained.
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Desert Showdown...
azathothpwiggins30 July 2019
In PHASE IV, a rare astronomical event brings about a change on Earth. In the Arizona desert, ants of various species join forces, wipe out all of their natural enemies, and... wait. The humans set up a research facility in the midst of the insects to uncover what is happening and how to best respond to it. It's collective force, instinct, adaptability, and the "group mind" vs. human intellect / ingenuity, as the ants seem to have an unknown agenda all their own.

One of the better science fiction films of the 1970's, P4 achieves a high level of suspense, as it builds up an overall atmosphere of claustrophobia and dread. It's astonishing how Director Saul Bass instilled so much alien menace and lethality into such tiny creatures! The views of the ants in action are a wonder! Oh, and the people are also pretty good!...
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6/10
Lots of soul, but no brain
siderite12 July 2014
"Something" happens and ants become intelligent. A research center is being constructed to investigate. In a typical 70's fashion the scientist is a person of great influence and intelligence, but very little empathy, leaving the second in command be the exponent of the normal guy. Naturally, the scientist decides to communicate with the ants using an explosive cannon to destroy 6 monoliths that the ants erected (probably in the honor of 2001: Space Odyssey, that they enjoyed tremendously) and when the ants retaliate, he responds with "yellow chemistry", which is a poison that kills indiscriminately people and ants. Also in the 70's fashion ants communicate via sound and have a queen that commands them.

The one thing going well for the movie is the atmosphere, reminding me of the excellent The Andromeda Strain. The science, though, is complete rubbish, even for that era, making me rather angry. I mean, they had an interesting story, clearly a talented director to make it all look and feel as it should, the least they could do is get their facts straight.

The way the movie is made presents some stunning visuals and a captivating atmosphere. However it also presents long stretches of nothing with eerie music being played in the background. The beginning, a stunning 5 minute run of nothing but ants moving pointlessly around, is enough to make most people turn the movie off and do something else. Also the two dimensional characters - the psychopathic scientist, the kind youngster and the stupid beautiful girl - made it hard to enjoy.

So, did I like it? I can't say that I did. I really wanted to like it and my inability to do so makes me rate this film low. It is beyond me how people with enough attention to detail to make a nice looking movie ignore completely characterization and scientific fact. But it is a nice reference for sci-fi movies. Saul Bass, the director, directed only five obscure movies, but ended up being a title designer for a lot of known ones. Perhaps his eye for nice visuals was his only skill. Too bad.
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5/10
ants everywhere!
ksf-227 May 2021
Ants! Nigel Davenport is Dr. Hubbs, who has been studying the ants. He notices that the people and predators are disappearing, while the ant population is increasing! The ants are acting together, with a unified purpose of survival. And there are strange, tall towers on the property. Dr. Hubbs has come up with a plan. While his assistant compares the noise they make to the directions they go... kind of. Some terrible science going on here, but we get it...the ants are taking over. And the only way to stop them seems to be with some chemical called "yellow". After being bitten by one of the ants, the lead scientist seems to be going nuts! Will they find a way to escape? Directed by Saul Bass. This was his only full length film directed, but he worked in different areas of film making. Story by Mayo Simon. This one is pretty lame, but like all those bug films and vincent price films, you just cant turn it off. And so much footage of ants. You've never seen so much.
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Visually interesting nonsense from the legendary Saul Bass
tieman6425 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Though primarily an animator and designer of title sequences ("Psycho", "Vertigo", "Spartacus" etc), Saul Bass also directed "Phase IV", his first and only feature length film.

The plot? A pair of scientists stationed at a remote outpost investigate and wage war on an Army of super-intelligent, mutated ants. Our human heroes try their best, but eventually lose to their tactically and numerically superior foes. The film ends with the ants taking over the planet, turning mankind into a race of obedient slaves, and posing triumphantly on a hill before a sunset. The film is completely nuts.

Still, Bass works wonders with the material. He takes the trashy creature features of the 1950s ("Them!", "The Thing", "The Blob", "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms", "Tarantula", "Invaders From Mars") and shoots them like he shot his more famous title sequences, making heavy use of abstract, stylised images, sound effects, sparse dialogue, surrealism, trick shots and clever macrophotography for the film's various bugs, ants and microchips. Visually it's a one of a kind film.

7.9/10 – Dumb but directed with much flair. Worth one viewing.
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7/10
"We have only one chance".
lost-in-limbo16 October 2010
Insects can give you the creepy crawlies… now a nest of ants would make my skin crawl. "Phase IV" takes on a more low-key, but cerebral and experimental angle on it nature runs amok formula. Ants… not your ordinary ants either. Super intelligent ones. I wouldn't be surprised if you start thinking you are watching a documentary about ants --- due to the footage and dissected dialogues. While it might have a reliable turn by Nigel Davenport, it's really all about the ants. There's nothing gratuitous or particularly exciting about it, however its slow burn, searing psychological style plays out like a battle of wits between the humans and the ants in showing their overall dominance. Somewhat effective, rather brooding (namely the electronic score) and at times unpleasant, but the atypical ending just came across to be underwhelming with its resolution after the initial, if frightening set-up. Director Saul Brass is quite a stylist in his visionary details even with what would look like a low-budget. It's technically good and well poised. The musty desert landscapes are barren, but he invokes many eerie passages and taut developments from his earthy handling. The thrills are minor, where it's verbose script is all about adapting and challenging (by learning the facts and patterns of each other) in gaining some sort of upper-hand, but never does it become too silly. Michael Murphy (whose character wants to communicate) and Lynne Frederick might be sober, but established enough. "Phase IV" is a thoughtfully interesting and ambitious curio more than just brainless Sci-fi horror.
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7/10
The least awful movie on MST3K?
ericstevenson1 August 2016
I was really interested in seeing this movie or rather its episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000". Is it the best movie ever featured on the show? Yeah, probably. What I like about this movie is that it doesn't really try to be too big. It actually does have an interesting concept. When you first hear about it, you think it's going to be about giant ants attacking people. It's actually pretty interesting to see these little ants go around everywhere. I ended up feeling sympathetic for some of these characters. I don't think they ever got to "Phase IV" on the screen or even "Phase III"!

It actually is a pretty creative movie, but I don't think I would quite recommend it. It can still get pretty silly at times and the color doesn't seem that good. It's still light years ahead of 90% of the movies shown on the show. The acting isn't bad and it does have a pretty interesting ending, even if it makes little sense. The effects are quite good and I believe these are all real ants. So, you can simply question why this movie was featured on the show. Every cloud has a silver lining! ***
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8/10
Phase IV: Incredible piece of cinema
Platypuschow16 March 2019
Though there are plenty of movies with ants as the antagonist I'll have to be honest with the exception of Them (1954) I've never really been able to take them seriously as a viable threat. I mean seriously, ants?

Phase IV managed to change my mind on that and made ants a legitimately terrifying credible enemy.

It tells the story of a pair of scientists who set up a lab in the middle of the desert where ants seem to have taken over. Right beside a failed desert development they underestimate the intelligence of their diminutive foes.

The first thing that struck me was how good it all looked, the movie is years ahead of its time in both cinematography and practical effects. The ant sequences are truly remarkable and not rushed as you tend to expect them to be for the mid 70's. They take their time, intricately crafting the ants world, telling their silent story and solidifying their credibility as threats to mankind.

I went in expecting some hammy mess, what I got was an elusive diamond in the rough and I'm very very impressed.

Well acted, visually stunning and paced perfectly Phase IV is a great sci-fi piece that didn't deserve to go under the radar the way it did.

Fantastic stuff.

The Good:

Well ahead of its time

Looks great

Ant footage is very impressive

Strong cast

The Bad:

The nagging concern of possible animal cruelty

Silly ant noises
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1/10
This is stinky pooh pooh
jacobjohntaylor124 September 2016
This is not a good movie. The sorry line is awful. It is not scary. 6.6 is just overrating it. It not scary at all. It has some good actors but it is not a good story line at all. This is one of the worst horror movie of all time. I need more lines and I am running out of things to say. Do not wast your time. Do not wast your money. Do not see this awful movie. If you want to get scared see Empire of Ants. Do not see this stinky stinky dodo. There is a reason why people like it. But I could not tell you. I do not knew why this got a 6.6. It is so pooh pooh. I do not knew why people like. Just see Empire of the Ants do not see this.
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5/10
Not the most interesting story, but stunningly photographed.
paulclaassen5 September 2021
To set your mind at ease, you haven't missed any 'Phase' films. This is actually called 'Phase IV', and is not the fourth installment in a franchise.

Let's be honest, 'Phase IV' is not the most interesting of films. There's a lost of extreme close-up photography of ants - REAL ants and not CGI ants. Parts of the movie felt like a documentary. Although the photography is incredible and fascinating for its time, even this wears off after a while. And, although it was just ants, the close-up photography of ants dying and being crushed to death, was still discomforting to watch. Maybe because it was just too close and detailed.

So, the film is about ants suddenly behaving strangely, and two scientists, Hubbs (Davenport) and Lesko (Murphy) trying to investigate the phenomenon. They're even attempting to communicate with the ants by studying their patterns and sounds. When they rescue a young girl, Kendra (Frederick) from a poisonous gas, a bond develops between her and Lesko. Fortunately it was more about Lesko pitying the girl than a romantic interest, but I still found the girl got in the way of the story.

There's very little action - and horror here - but the film also wasn't boring. It did have a rather weird ending, though, which didn't make a lot of sense. I think I would have preferred a different ending.

'Phase IV' didn't do well at the box office, but then again, how many cinemagoers really find ants an interesting premise...?

Would I watch it again? I don't think so.
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8/10
Best ant movie ever!
Stevieboy66619 November 2017
Due to some cosmic event ants in the desert become highly intelligent and wage a war on all other inhabitants, including humans. OK, so plot isn't the films strongest point. What makes this film such a classic is the stunning camera work, especially of the ants and other creatures, the use of very vivid colour and a very effective soundtrack. It is a superb movie to watch late at night with the lights out. Having a cast of only three main characters also helps create some great tension, though sadly Lynne Frederick's inability to do a convincing American accent is a negative.
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8/10
Ants , ants , ants !!!!
robfollower8 October 2020
"Phase IV" combined elements of science fiction, horror & a dash of art-house cinema to tell a compelling story of the next phase in evolution for the littlest creatures among us and humanity. After a cosmic event, an ant colony shows signs of collective intelligence as it builds a series of monoliths, and create the ant equivalent of the United Nations. Behaving with flawless cooperation becomes something practiced by all ants, not just within individual colonies. Now the hive-mind ants with new found purpose start attacking humans that encroach on their territory. I will be thinking twice the next time torture ants with my magnifying glasses. Actually I only did that when I was 10 years old but I don't want to give the ants ideas.

Phase IV was directed by Saul Bass who was primarily known as a graphic designer who worked on some of the most famous title sequences of all time. The man did title work for the best of the best, working with Hitchcock, Kubrick and Scorsese to name a few. Phase IV is the only feature film he directed.

The cinematography to create of surreal, haunting special effects are quite impressive. Soul Bass may have watched a few Sir David Frederick Attenborough documentary's as the film employs groundbreaking microphotography to give the ants there very menacing and creepy imagery. The ants are able to bore through flesh and bone in seconds. Phase IV makes use of some tremendous practical effects.

Well acted, visually stunning and paced perfectly Phase IV is a great science fiction horror piece of 70's cinema.

A bit of trivia:

Female actress Helen Horton in the film provided the voice for "Mother" the computer on the Nostromo in "Alien".

Director Saul Bass has said in interviews that the studio tampered with the film during post production against his wishes.

According to actor Michael Murphy, actress Lynne Frederick was required to wear a sort of corset during filming so that she would appear more flat-chested. Kendra, the character she played, was supposed to be about 16 years old (four years younger than she really was at the time), and the director wanted to minimize her voluptuous figure. Curses :)
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