Monster Exclusive: 1979 Phantasm Live with Don Coscarelli

I recently had the chance to attend a screening of the new 4K restoration of the 1979 classic, Phantasm, with Don Coscarelli live in attendance. With a sold-out theater, a Q&A afterward and a book signing following that, it’s a night a fan won’t soon forget. Thanks to the awesome people of Alamo Drafthouse Phoenix, I managed to get the low down on this spectacular, one-of-a-kind event.

Watching what is arguably the most excellent horror film of all time on the big screen, is an absolute dream come true. But that wasn’t the only thing happening that night at the special event. No, the legend himself Mr. Don Coscarelli was in attendance, consuming the newly restored film right alongside the sold-out crowd.

Just being in the same theater with the man who’s inspired countless filmmakers and passionate fans for decades, is enough to satiate your inner id. Before the film played, Coscarelli dedicated the special showing to Angus Scrimm (wherever he might be). And as cliche, as it might sound, it was like being a kid in a candy shop. The film looked and sounded the best it ever has, thanks to the new 4K video and audio restorations by J.J. Abrams and the fantastic people at Bad Robot.

The Q&A segment after the film finished and Don Coscarelli took the stage to a standing ovation, is what proved the night to be a special one. There were some great questions from a dedicated die-hard audience. One problem in particular, “What is it like to be a genre icon?” caused the beloved writer and director to become a bit apprehensive and bashful for a moment. 
It was enlightening to hear the answers and stories to some of the questions posed by the fans like learning what happened to the badass Hemi Barracuda after the film wrapped.
The car was stored at the house of someone who helped make the film, once it was no longer needed. Being it was customized with a sunroof for certain scenes in the movie, the car eventually suffered water damaged due to leakage from storms during its time left sitting.

The car, unfortunately, grew moldy thanks to the interior water damage, and the person who was storing it was told they could keep the car or any money they might get if they sold it, as payment for storing the car on their property. The vehicle was said to have been sold for $1000 and ended up last seen on a used car lot. To this day, the whereabouts of the original vehicle is still unknown. 

And speaking of Mr. Abrams, the story goes that not all that long ago, Abrams wanted to show Phantasm to some colleagues of his that had never seen the film. He has been inspired by the film ever since he first watched when he was around 15 years old. One day Abrams called up Coscarelli and asked him to send over a screener for a viewing. Coscarelli obliged and sent over the best copy he had on hand. Abrams then contacted Coscarelli once more asking about an HD version of the film, to which there weren’t one thanks to distribution problems.

After Coscarelli explained the issue to Abrams, J.J. informed him that once they finished his current projects (Star Wars and Star Trek), he could bring over Phantasm and Abrams would have his company Bad Robot restore the 1979 classic. Luckily for those of us in attendance, we were privileged to be able to watch the newly renovated version shown for the first time, on the big screen.Not only did they remaster the film, but they remastered the audio as well. It was like rediscovering the movie for the first time all over again, only this time we seeing it and hearing it. 

Coscarelli also explained as to where the Tall Man’s spheres originated. He said that they were products of a recurring nightmare he had back when he was younger. He said he would find himself running down long corridors in his dreams while being chased and pursued by strange silver spheres. It was the only original concept he created in the film. He then went on to say that the rest of the ideas he used in the movie, were inspired by other pre-existing content.

So, if you get the chance to see this film or the newly restored 4K version in the theater, I highly suggest you do so. It’s arguably the best horror film of all time, and the creator is one of the most relaxed and most humble people you’ll ever meet. There’s just no other experience quite like it…boy!




Posted by Donovan Smith

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