Walking tall
An overview of the region 2 Phantasm Sphere 5 Disc Limited Edition Box Set
and review of the bonus disc by Slarek
 

As someone who believes that content is always more important than the package it comes in, my cynical streak is always roused by attempts to sell crap in fancy boxes, especially at this time of year. But working in opposition to this is the small child in me that adores it when someone goes to the trouble of presenting something I love in a way that suggests they and I are on exactly the same wavelength. You get the feeling that if you met them in a bar then you would talk all night about the same damned things with impossible enthusiasm until you were both gloriously drunk and lost in a sea of disarmingly similar memories.

This is especially true of DVDs. I still get excited about specific films in a manner that extends way beyond the cool detachment of critically analysis, and my house is overrun with film posters, movie memorabilia and action figures. The release of a special edition DVD whose packaging looks as if it was designed more by rabid fans of the film than the studio marketing section (actually, it's probably a combination of the two) always puts a Cheshire grin on my face. The region 1 versions of both Se7en and Fight Club made me squeal with delight, and the big wooden box that bore the US special edition release of The Wicker Man is something I still take out to wow visitors, though I avoid opening it to reveal the crappy plastic insides. But wait, this is kids' stuff...

It's hard to describe the thrill I got when I opened the packaging of my Anchor Bay's Phantasm Sphere Box Set and was greeted by what for my money is the best presentation of a box set I have yet seen. There were even a couple of bits to assemble, re-awakening memories of childhood Airfix kit building. The completed result was a rather lovely, life-sized reproduction of the series' most distinctive icon, the flying sphere, inside of which are housed the five discs. There's even a stand to put it on. Now THIS is how to package a cult film collection.

As a series, the Phantasm films do tend to conform to tradition, with a great first film, a damned good second one, a wobbly third and a weaker fourth, but buying the box set does enable you to get the whole series, something many would be unlikely to do if they were available separately. Value wise, this is a great purchase, with four films, all featuring DTS tracks and commentaries, plus a well specified bonus disc, for the retail price of £34.99, but you can pick it up for about £27, which works out at £5.40 a disc, less than half what you'd pay to buy the films separately and you wouldn't get the extra disc. Even cheaper is the Phantasm Digipack, which features the same discs in a more regular box (RRP £29.99), but for the extra fiver you get the sphere, and no true Phantasm fan is going to pass that one up.*

Each of the films have been reviewed separately, which can be accessed via the links below, and the bonus disc is reviewed here.

bonus disc

The key feature on this disc is Phantasmagoria (97:38), a feature-length (longer than any of the Phantasm films, as it happens) look at the making of the series, starting with Coscarelli's first films Jim the World's Greatest and Kenny & Company, then taking us through all four Phantasm films in some detail, including Roger Avary's abortive script for an epic Phantasm IV and some speculation on a fifth film. There are plenty of interviews with a wide range of cast and crew members, plus some great on-set stories and a host of information supplied about the movies, some of which is duplicated in the commentaries on the individual DVDs but is very nicely pulled together here. If you are a fan of even a couple of the films and were uncertain about the box set, then this is probably going to be the persuader. The picture is anamorphic 16:9 and in good shape.

Reggie's Phantastic Tour (16:11) has Reggie Bannister take us on a tour of some of the key locations used in the films, a mixture of Reggie hamming it up for the camera and interview material not used in the main documentary. It's interesting for fans who may want to take their own tour and pretty entertaining. This is also anamorphic 16:9.

Phantasm: Genesis (20:27) is a misleadingly titled collection of behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of Phantasm III and Phantasm IV, which are framed 4:3 and cut with non-anamorphic 16:9 material not used in the main documentary. This sort of stuff is always welcome.

Greg Nicotero: The Gory Days (21:06) is built around an interview with make-up effects guru Nicotero, who came to Phantasm II fresh from his work on two other classic horror sequels, Day of the Dead and Evil Dead II and who went on to work for such luminaries as John Carpenter, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. He provides an interesting insight into how he came to work on the film and the effects he and others provided. This one is anamorphic 16:9.

Finally there is Phandom (17:53), a look at the film's fan base, also anamorphic 16:9 and also shot at the same time as the main documentary. There are positive comments from the director and cast, balanced by A. Michael Baldwin's nervousness at the more extreme fan reactions and Bill Thornbury's rather worrying tale of one Phantasm obsessive who actually burst into his home in full combat gear announcing that he was the new Tall Man. Three of the film's biggest fans are also interviewed, though all were connected directly with later productions, having secured jobs on them through a combination of chance and their own unwavering enthusiasm.

The menus, a CG animated version of the Phantasm mausoleum set, really add to the polish.

summary

All in all, a fine box set, wonderfully presented, and with a spanking collection of extra features. For fans of the series, or even of just the first two films, the bonus disc is absolutely worth having, and that sphere sits wonderfully on any horror fan's booze cabinet. Highly recommended.

 


* Since this review was posted the on-line price of the set has plummeted to about £10. Now THAT is value.

The Phantasm Sphere Limited Edition Box Set

Bonus disc details
video
1.85:1 anamorphic
4:3
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
languages
English
subtitles
none
features
Phantasmagoria making-of documentary
Reggie's Phantastic Tour
Phantasm: Genesis
Greg Nicotero: The Gory Days
Phandom
distributor
Anchor Bay UK
review posted
29 November 2005

The Phantasm Sphere Limited Edition Box Set
Phantasm
Phantasm II
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
Phantasm IV: Oblivion