[PHANTASM WEEK] 21 PHANTASM PHACTS!

 

 

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  1. PHANTASM’s haunting score is part HALLOWEEN, part THE EXORCIST, but has a chilling quality that makes it its own memorable soundrack. The music is by Malcolm Seagrave & Fred Myrow. Myrow had been a friend of Jim Morrison and had been working on a musical with the Lizard King up until Morrison’s death. Myrow had also scored the TV-movie PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (kind of a WILD HOGS of its day, starring William Shatner, Andy Griffith, and the dad from THE BRADY BUNCH.) He’d go on to record the music for Coscarelli’s SURVIVAL QUEST.

 

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  1. Coscarelli couldn’t get the rights to SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, so he made his own horror story about a pre-teen hero and a man who embodied darkness. The sphere came to him in a dream.

 

 

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  1. The original cut of PHANTASM was close to three hours long, it was a coming-of-age melodrama (similar to his KENNY & COMPANY) and the Tall Man didn’t appear until 90 minutes into the film. Coscarelli narrowed its focus as a science-fiction horror movie and trimmed half the movie. Some of those deleted scenes appeared in their entirety in PHANTASM: OBLIVION.

 

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  1. If the Morningside funeral home looks familiar, that’s because it’s the Dunsmuir Mansion, the same house that tormented Karen Black and Oliver Reed in BURNT OFFERINGS. The 19th century estate is still standing today and it’s the site of Oakland’s scariest Halloween event.

 

 

 

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  1. During a JOHN DIES AT THE END Q&A, Coscarelli was asked what his nightmares are like. The director confessed that he dreams about insects. The bug in PHANTASM is the first appearance of his insect motif, more bugs show up in Coscarelli’s BUBBA HO-TEP, THE BEASTMASTER, and JOHN DIES AT THE END. The PHANTASM bug was made by Don Coscarelli’s mother.

 

 

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  1. The Phantasm Novelization was written by Don Coscarelli’s own mother. Kate was a Romance Novelist, who’d penned books like Heir Apparent and Pretty Woman. This retelling of her son’s horror story included details not found in the film, including a gruesome backstory from the funeral home, where the owner of Morningside hung himself after a scandal involving a corpse displayed in a coffin with a severed penis sticking out of its mouth.

 

 

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  1. PHANTASM is notable for having so many unanswered questions. One question that’s answered in the novelization is “Where do Mike and Jody get their money?” Turns out the Pearson family owned the town bank. Jody is even the bank President.

 

 

 

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  1. PHANTASM was filmed on weekends over three years. During that time, teen actor A. Michael Baldwin went through puberty. Don Coscarelli admits it became a problem for the production – especially when Mike had outgrown his child-sized bed.

 

 

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  1. After PHANTASM’s release, its young lead A. Michael Baldwin became a huge star in Japan. (According to Japan’s SCREEN Magazine he was the 26th most popular actor in Japan, between Charlton Heston and Richard Dreyfuss.) After a Japanese magazine published the actor’s home address, rich Japanese girls would show up at his home, getting dropped off in a taxi. Baldwin recalls that his mother would invite the girls in and make them breakfast.

 

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  1. PHANTASM gets name-checked in Cameron Crowe’s book Fast Times At Ridgemont High. In the book, Mark Ratner takes his date to see PHANTASM, since the movie is so frightening it’ll help him score.

 

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  1. Brad Pitt auditioned for the lead in PHANTASM II, it was his first audition in Hollywood. Pitt didn’t get the part, but Don Coscarelli still has the videotape of the actor reading the graveyard scene, shouting “Reggie, one of these graves is empty!” When asked about the missed opportunity, Coscarelli says he made the right decision, but from a financial point of view, casting Pitt “probably would have been awesome.”

 

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  1. After winning an Oscar for co-writing PULP FICTION, Roger Avary was asked what’s next. He boasted, “I’m gonna write a PHANTASM sequel!” PHANTASM 1999 A.D. was a big-budget futuristic story showing America as a wasteland, ravaged by the Tall Man. The expensive film was never produced, but Coscarelli adapted some of the ideas into PHANTASM: OBLIVION. Following the fourth entry in the series, Avary’s script was revised and retitled PHANTASM 2013 A.D., as the fifth and final film. That screenplay is for sale on eBay.

 

 

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  1. Bruce Campbell was supposed to be in a PHANTASM sequel. At the Alamo Drafthouse’s 1999 weekend-long PHANTASMANIA, Don Coscarelli told an excited crowd that the 5th installment was going to co-star Bruce Campbell. The audience went wild! Coscarelli said they were writing lots of good Bruce Campbell one-liners for the film and everyone seemed pretty damn excited. (Everyone except Reggie Bannister, who understood that he’d be losing screen time.) This Phantasm sequel never got made, Campbell went on to make BUBBA HO-TEP with Coscarelli.

 

 

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  1. One recurring motif on display in PHANTASM is Coscarelli’s use of hallways. Long corridors also figure prominently in the PHANTASM sequels, BUBBA HO-TEP, and even THE BEASTMASTER.

 

 

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  1. PHANTASM includes a few allusions to Frank Herbert’s DUNE. Early in the film Mike visits a fortune teller and puts his hand into a box (just like the “pain box” from DUNE.) The fortune teller’s daughter says “Don’t fear. Fear is the killer.” Later, Jody visits the town bar, DUNES CANTINA.

 

 

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  1. Coscarelli cites 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as one of his favorite movies, and the reason he became a filmmaker. He included the glowing white room as an homage to Kubrick’s iconic science-fiction film.

 

 

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  1. PHANTASM was filming at the same time as STAR WARS, so the two films’ similarities are not homagesn but parallel thinking. (See Kindertrauma’s mash-up.) Another parallel extends to the fact that both series expand over 35 years; A. Michael Baldwin is 53, the same age Angus Scrimm was when he first appeared as The Tall Man (similar to the way Mark Hamill is the same age Alec Guiness was in STAR WARS.)

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What’s more, J.J. Abrams named the shiny silver villain Captain Phasma as a nod to PHANTASM.

 

 

 

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  1. Before appearing under the pseudonym “Angus Scrimm,” actor Rory Guy had co-starred in Coscarelli’s first film, JIM THE WORLD’S GREATEST. Mr. Guy played Jim’s alcoholic father. The family drama included a cameo by Reggie Bannister as a hanglider pilot.

 

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  1. Don Coscarelli’s second feature film, KENNY & COMPANY, is a genre-blending story that captures a few days in the life of a pre-teen boy. Coscarelli said his favorite part of the process was attending the preview screenings for the Halloween haunted-house scene. The audience jumped in fright, and Coscarelli got such a thrill that he decided his next project would be a horror movie, with a jump scare every five minutes.

 

 

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  1. Novelist and Cracked.com writer David Wong says the movie PHANTASM made a huge impression on him when he was a child. Coscarelli’s weird horror film definitely influenced his novel JOHN DIES AT THE END. So when David Wong got an email from Coscarelli asking to option the book, he figured it was a prank, and didn’t reply. (Coscarelli was persistent, and adapted the movie in 2012.)

 

 

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  1. There wasn’t a lot of merchanise for the PHANTASM movies. But NECA produced a Tall Man action figure. (Here’s a video of my 8-year-old son opening that toy, guaranteeing a future generation of Phans.)

 

 

 

Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is an Emmy-nominated comedy writer and an award-winning filmmaker. He hosted AMC’s THE SCI-FI DEPT and currently hosts the live video-variety show KEVIN GEEKS OUT in Brooklyn. www.KevinGeeksOut.com
Kevin Maher

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