Phantasm (1979) Poster

(1979)

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  • According to the Webster's New World College Dictionary:

    Phantasm: noun 1. a perception of something that has no physical reality; figment of the mind; esp., a specter, or ghost 2. a deceptive likeness 3. PHILOS. a mental impression of a real person or thing

    Another definition taken from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

    Phantasm: noun 1. Something apparently seen but having no physical reality; a phantom or an apparition. Also called phantasma. 2. An illusory mental image. 3. In Platonic philosophy, objective reality as perceived and distorted by the five senses.

    Finally, the Phantasm II trailer features the following definition:

    Phantasm: The delusion of a disordered mind. A phantom. A spirit. A ghost. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • No. Phantasm, as well as its sequels, is based on an original screenplay penned by writer and director Don Coscarelli.

    However, Don Coscarelli's mother, best-selling author Kate Coscarelli, wrote a a novel adaptation based on the script. It was published in a limited edition in 2002 and only 500 copies were produced. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Unfortunately, the novel is currently out of print and there are no plans for a new edition. Also, as only 500 copies were originally made, it is extremely difficult to find one.

    From time to time, a copy pops up in eBay or Amazon, or even sold at Horror conventions by members of the cast and crew. Nevertheless, it is very rare and the book is considered a true collector's item.

    Anyway, you can read the first 9 chapters online in the following link:

    http://www.angelfire.com/wa/realmen87/novel.html Edit (Coming Soon)

  • No. The original cut of Phantasm ran about three hours long. It was a mix of many genres featuring a lot of character development, plenty of subplots and The Tall Man did not appear until half and hour into the movie, revealing it as a Horror film.

    Realizing that the story needed a faster pace and a more standard duration for theatrical exhibition, Don Coscarelli re-edited the film and cut it down to a final lenght of less than 90 minutes. In the process, almost every character had scenes cut (Mike, Jody, Reggie, The Tall Man, the fortune teller and her granddaughter, Sally and Suzy... etc.) and many subplots were re-worked or entirely removed. This is why the movie has such a disjointed structure with plenty of loose ends, giving it a unique dream-like feel that has become a hallmark of it.

    So, in short, a three hours director's cut of Phantasm does not exist as the 90 minutes version released that we all know is Don Coscarelli's final and approved editing. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • For information about which were the filming locations for Phantasm, where are they located and how do they look like today, you can read Sean Clark's extensive article about it published in bloody-disguting:

    http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/article/376 Edit (Coming Soon)

  • According to the unofficial Phantasm timeline published in The Phantasm Archives website (http://www.phantasmarchives.net/), the movie takes place in late 1978.

    For more information, you can read the complete timeline in the following link:

    http://www.phantasmarchives.net/timeline.html Edit (Coming Soon)

  • The movie never clarifies why everybody in town, even his closest friends, believed without hesitation that Tommy had commited suicide instead of having being murdered. Regarding this, there are two possible explanations:

    • Tommy could have actually committed suicide by stabbing himself in the stomach. Actually, this is a kind of ritual suicide in some Eastern countries such as Japan. It is possible (although not very likely) that people would think of suicide as the cause of his death, particularly if no other clues or fingerprints were found near him.


    • The Tall Man staged Tommy's death to make it look like a suicide. This way, there would be no evidences or further investigation that could lead to him and uncover his plans. In the realms of the movie, this is the most plausible and logical explanation.


    Kate Coscarelli's novel, based on the original screenplay written by Don Coscarelli, definitely confirms this second theory by giving a detailed explanation of what happened: Tommy was found locked in his cellar by his father. Apparently, he had wedged his hunting knife between two boards in the basement wall and then just fell on it. The sheriff only found Tommy's fingerprints in the knife and, as he could have locked himself from the inside, there was no reason to believe that someone had killed him. Therefore, the only logical explanation left was suicide. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In the Phantasmagoria documentary included in the Anchor Bay DVD edition of the Phantasm movies, Angus Scrimm himself states that, when he was younger, his peak height used to be 6' 4'' (1.93 m). It is also explained that, while playing the character, he wore lifts that added 3 inches to his height.

    Therefore, The Tall Man is supposed to be around 6' 7" (2.01 m). Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Sort of, as this is a matter of discussion. Some fans have pointed out that the dwarf creatures from Phantasm share an uncanny resemblance with the jawas from Star Wars. Others have mentioned that the silver sphere is obviously inspired by the flying sphere that Luke Skywalker uses to train with his lightsaber while blindfolded.

    In the Phantasmagoria documentary included in the Anchor Bay DVD edition of the Phantasm movies, writer and director Don Coscarelli states that this is just a twist of fate. When Star Wars premiered on 25th of May 1977, Phantasm was in an early production stage. According to Coscarelli, the next day a member of the crew came to him and told him that he "had seen his guys (the dwarves) in a movie". Greatly concerned, Coscarelli went to the theatre and saw Star Wars to check it out. Apart from loving the movie, he felt relieved as he thought that the dwarves and the jawas were so different from each other that any simmilarity would be considered just a coincidence. He has never stated anything regarding his silver sphere and the flying sphere that Luke uses to train his ability with the Force.

    Anyway, it is up to oneself which version of the story you believe. What Coscarelli says sounds reasonable as the script for Phantasm was already written when Star Wars came out. Nevertheless, and being a hardcore Sci-Fi fan, it is not unlikely that Coscarelli could have drawn inspiration from George Lucas and "inserted" it into his own, personal world, specially considering the huge impact that Star Wars had on the audiences at the time. Edit (Coming Soon)

Spoilers

The FAQ items below may give away important plot points.

  • When Mike visits the fortune teller seeking for advice, he shares with her his two biggest fears so far:

    • The possibility that Jody might leave town and abandon him.


    • The Tall Man.


    The "hand in the box" test is meant to teach Mike to overcome his fears by facing them. As soon as Mike puts his hand in the box, the more scared he is, the bigger the pain it inflicts in him. Only when he calms down and manages to control his own fear, the pain ceases and he is able to retrieve his hand, which shows no harm at all. As the fortune teller's granddaughter says: "fear is the killer" and, ultimately, it was all in his mind. Mike is taught that fear is actually his biggest enemy as it can turn against him. He will only overcome Jody's departure and confront The Tall Man if he faces both things with a clear, grown-up mind. Then, he will no longer be afraid.

    Later on, this lesson will prove successful when Mike dares to cross the Space Gate (finding out The Tall Man's secret plans) and in the last chase, when he beats The Tall Man's mind traps by not believing in them. Regarding Jody, Mike will wake up in the end to realize that it was all dream and that his brother has been dead for a while, having no other choice but to assume his death and live with it. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • We never really know for sure. She walks through the Morningside cemetery gates and, off screen, we hear her scream. It is implied, however, that she was probably taken by the dwarves or The Tall Man and killed or locked up in the funeral home.

    Nevertheless, when Reggie reunites with Mike and Jody inside the mausoleum, he tells them that he had found Sally and Suzy and "a couple of other girls" that he had never seen in his life. He adds that he helped them escape through a window and they ran like scared rabbits. We can safely guess that the fortune teller's granddaughter was one of those unknown girls, although this is never explicitly stated.

    Edit (Coming Soon)

  • As it is depicted in the movie, this scene can be interpreted in two opposite ways:

    • The Tall Man likes cold and enjoys the feeling of it. That is why he pauses in apparent ecstasy. After experiencing this momentaneous pleasure, he keeps on walking through Main Street.


    • The Tall Man hates cold. He is deterred by it, stunned, even like causing him a measure of pain. His hands come up in a warding off gesture. There is a pained slowness to his motions, as though the mist is literally freezing his limbs. That he breaths it in only makes things that much worse for him. Only as the mist dissipates can the Tall Man break free of its effect and continue on his way. His priority at that point seems to be to get away from the truck.


    However, an alternate ending where Mike kills the Tall Man with a fire extinguisher proves this second theory to be the correct one. This deleted scene can be found in the Anchor Bay Region 2 Special Edition of Phantasm. The Tall Man's unnatural sensitivity to cold can be explained due to the fact that he comes from a very hot planet with extremely high temperatures.

    Also, in Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, we learn through Mike that The Tall Man does in fact hate cold, it is harmful for him and can even destroy him.

    Anyway, the idea of The Tall Man disliking the cold was not a concept developed for the sequels, but created for the first movie. Because the ice cream truck scene remained in the film and the fire extinguisher death was removed, the concept was never completed and what we, as an audience, are left with is a very ambiguous scene, one where you can draw your own conclusion. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • The finding of the vintage picture of The Tall Man, sitting in a carriage and dressed up with old-fashioned clothes, is another notouriously ambiguous scene featured in the movie. There are to possible explanations of how a picture of The Tall Man, apparently taken in the 19th Century, ended up in the antique store:

    • The Tall Man has always been the undertaker in Morningside, ever since the very beginning, implying that he may be immortal or not human. But, how come nobody noticed?


    • The Tall Man has been in the town of Morningside before, a long time ago, hence nobody has recognized him.


    Once again, we can find the answer in the cutting room floor: another deleted scene shows Mike and Jody driving the Hemi Cuda when they see The Tall Man for the first time arriving to town in his hearse. So the second option is the right one. This footage is included as a flashback in Phantasm IV: Oblivion.

    But this is only part of the truth. In Phantasm IV: Oblivion, it is also revealed that the man in the picture is actually an undertaker from the 19th Century called Jebediah Morningside, of whom the being known as "The Tall Man" took his physical appearance. The picture belonged to him and, somehow as years and decades went by, it ended up in Sally and Suzy's antique store. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • According to what is shown in the movie, The Tall Man is not a ghost, nor a demon, nor a living dead either, but an alien being from another dimension or parallel world known as "The Red Planet".

    In Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead we learn that his aim is to enslave the dead and mass an army in order to conquer other dimensions and worlds unknown.

    On the other hand, in Phantasm IV: Oblivion, we discover that his physical appearance is that of Jebediah Morningside, an undertaker from the 19th Century. As a witness to the passage from life to death, Jebediah became obsessed with the matter and crafted a machine that could create "dimensional forks" or, simply put, open doorways to other worlds. Looking for answers, one night he crosses the space gate and reaches the Tall Man's dimension. As Jody states "Jebediah Morningside never does come back". Instead, the alien being known as "The Tall Man" comes through the space gate back to our world, having possesed or taken Jebediah's body and probably killing him in the process. This would also explain why every time The Tall Man is destroyed, a new one comes back from the Red Planet: Jebediah's likeness is used as a model that can be easily replicated ad infinitum. The true form of the alien being behind The Tall Man has never been revealed. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Although never explicitly stated in the movie, it is clearly implied from the very beginning that the Lady in Lavender is actually, in some supernatural form, The Tall Man in disguise.

    She seems to be another physical appearance that he can adopt, this time a beautiful young woman in order to seduce and attract unaware victims (like Tommy in the beginning or Reggie in the end). Supporting this theory, notice that the Lady in Lavender and The Tall Man never share any scene together, nor they ever appear in the same shot at the same time.

    Probably, the Lady in Lavender was in the past a regular human being instead of just a ghostly apparition or "phantasm". Maybe, at some point before the movie takes place, she was just a young girl that was caught and killed by the Tall Man, who took possession of her body as he did with Jebediah Morningside in Phantasm IV: Oblivion. Nevertheless, this is merely speculation as the film never clarifies this point. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • As described in the movie, the dwarves are corpses brought back to life by The Tall Man and shrunk to half their size in order to work as slaves in the Red Planet. The "condensation" or shrinking process is necessary due to the gravity being very heavy and the climate conditions very hard. A regular human being would not be able to survive in the Red Planet for very long with such a hot temperature, probably dying of dehydration in a matter of a few minutes. Besides, If the graviy is very low it would not be possible to either walk or move fluently as you would feel your body and limbs unusually heavy. That is why condensation becomes essential.

    In addition to this, in Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead we learn that The Tall Man uses them not only as slaves, but also as soldiers in an army that he is massing to conquer other dimensions. After the shrinking process is complete, he amputates their brain and encases it inside a sphere, leaving the dwarves with only vestigial parts of the cerebral cortex. With the strenght of a well-built adult human and lacking the ability to think, they act on instinct and impulse like a drone or a wild animal. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • After Mike defeats The Tall Man with the help of his brother Jody, he wakes up in his bed to realize that, apparently, everything was a dream. Reggie is alive and, after listening to Mike's story, he tells him that Jody died in a car wreck two weeks before, The Tall Man does not exist and he just had a nightmare. They both decide then to hit the road and change of scenery for a while, and Mike goes upstair to pack the luggage. But The Tall Man is in his bedroom, waiting for him. As soon as Mike sees him in the reflexion of his closet's mirror and turns around, the hands of a dwarf break the glass and pull him through it.

    The sudden appearance of The Tall Man at the very end of the movie instantly rules out the "everything was a dream" theory. At the same time, Jody's death and Reggie being safe and sound force us to disregard the "everything was real" theory too.

    As confusing as it is, the only logical explanation of what happened is that the whole movie was neither a dream, not real, but a complex mix of both. That is, some parts were obviously a fantasy, a dream (i.e. Reggie's murder by The Lady in Lavender) while others actually happened and were strictly for real (i.e. the existence of The Tall Man). Nevertheless, it is never clearly stated what is a dream and what is not, so we have to draw our own conclusions in relation to many other elements of the story.

    Of course, this explanation would be valid if we take Phantasm as a stand-alone film.

    Nevertheless, if we take the sequels into account, we discover in Phantasm II that Mike is still asleep and dreaming during the ending of the previous installment. The Tall Man's apparition in his closet mirror, the fight between Reggie and the dwarves to rescue him and the blowing of the house are all part of the same nightmare. After this, Mike is interned in the Morningside Psychiatric Clinic for 7 years, receiving treatment for what his doctor considers to be just a figment of his imagination. After being released, he insists in believing that everything was real while even Reggie claims it was just a paranoid delusion. Later on, Reggie´s house is blown up by The Tall Man in a very similar way as in Mike's dream, finally coming true in an ominous way. Edit (Coming Soon)

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