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Phantasm (1979)

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

Director:

Don Coscarelli

Writer:

Don Coscarelli
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Popularity
4,598 ( 687)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
A. Michael Baldwin ... Mike (as Michael Baldwin)
Bill Thornbury ... Jody
Reggie Bannister ... Reggie
Kathy Lester ... Lady in Lavender
Terrie Kalbus Terrie Kalbus ... Fortuneteller's Granddaughter
Kenneth V. Jones ... Caretaker (as Ken Jones)
Susan Harper Susan Harper ... Girlfriend
Lynn Eastman-Rossi ... Sally (as Lynn Eastman)
David Arntzen David Arntzen ... Toby
Ralph Richmond Ralph Richmond ... Bartender
Bill Cone Bill Cone ... Tommy
Laura Mann Laura Mann ... Double Lavender
Mary Ellen Shaw Mary Ellen Shaw ... Fortuneteller
Myrtle Scotton Myrtle Scotton ... Maid
Angus Scrimm ... The Tall Man
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Storyline

Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, afraid to lose his brother follow him to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lifting a coffin on his own. 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 slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall man.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Where the dead are no longer that way... See more »

Genres:

Horror | Sci-Fi

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for nudity, violence, and intense scenes | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 March 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Morningside See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$300,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$11,988,469
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | 4-Track Stereo (Visurama)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The spheres were designed by craftsman Willard Green who charged the production a little over $1,100 for his services. Sadly, he died just after production completed at the end of 1977, and never saw his work on the big screen. See more »

Goofs

(at around 10 mins) Early in the movie after Jody and Michael return from joyriding, Jody's friend Toby pulls up outside the house and Jody asks him, what brings you to town? Just a couple of scenes earlier, Toby and Jody can both be seen lifting Tommy's casket from the hearse because they were both pallbearers at Tommy's funeral. However, this scene was a flashback showing how Mike found out that Jody was going to be leaving and could have taken place before the funeral. See more »

Quotes

Mike: [upon seeing the Tall Man] Uuuumm...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The remastered version begins with the Bad Robot logo appearing in one of the Tall Man's spheres. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Wu Tang vs. Ninja (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A Start . . .
15 September 2004 | by jaywolfenstienSee 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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