Release Date(s)1994 (September 18, 2018)
Studio(s)Starway International Inc./Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (Well Go USA Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D+
Picking up immediately where its predecessor left off, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead continues the story of the dreaded Tall Man, his killer silver flying balls, his deadly dwarf army, and a scattered group of survivors trying to stop him. This time around, The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) manages to nab Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), leaving Reggie (Reggie Bannister) with the task of trying to get him back. Along the way, he meets a couple of people who want to join him, including a nunchaku-wielding soldier of fortune (Gloria Lynne Henry) and a hardened but resourceful young boy (Kevin Connors). Together, they head straight for the evil Tall Man to try and discover what he is and how to stop him.
After the greatness of Phantasm and Phantasm II, Phantasm III had a tall order to fill in terms of entertainment value. The first film was truly alien, not just in its content, but in its fragmented style. The second film was a more mainstream effort by comparison, not just because it had a major studio behind it, but also because it upped the action/horror ante considerably. It’s a bit like Alien and Aliens – both are great, but they’re two distinct entities. Phantasm III is by no means comparable to Alien 3, but it has plenty going for it to make it worth the effort. It’s certainly more proficient at capturing Don Coscarelli’s odd sensibilities, with both its narrative and its content. There are several moments when you can truly see the beginnings of what he would do later with Bubba Ho-Tep, and more specifically, John Dies at the End.
And since Mike’s character isn’t in the film for great stretches of time, we also get to spend more time with Reggie as he treks his way across a primarily dead world, mostly running into survivors who want to do little else than defend themselves, plunder, or screw each other over. It’s basically a world without rules, but eventually, they all succumb to The Tall Man. However, the most intriguing aspect of the film is the return of Jody (Bill Thornbury) and his reunion with Mike and Reggie. Like its previous entries, there are also plenty of great special effects, fun set pieces, and bizarre dialogue choices, which if you’re a Phantasm fan, is par for the course.
Well Go USA’s single Blu-ray release of Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead appears to carry the same transfer as the one found in their Phantasm Collection boxed set. It’s a generally pleasant presentation with nice detail and a clear picture with decent grain levels. Colors are also well-represented, although they tend not to pop as well as they should, while black levels are deep with shadow detail that ranges from good to sometimes crushed, specifically during scenes in mausoleums. Everything is bright and well-defined and the overall appearance is clean with no major leftover instances of damage or dirt. The audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks, while score sometimes takes a slight backseat to the rest of presentation. Both tracks offer plenty of panning when the flying silver balls are in the air, but the 5.1 is slightly more aggressive, particularly for ambient sounds and low end activity.
Substantially, there isn’t really anything new when it comes to the extras. It’s all the same material that’s been hanging around since Anchor Bay’s original DVD release, but it also doesn’t feature any of the new material that was included in the aforementioned Phantasm Collection boxed set, which quickly went out of print. What you do get is an audio commentary with A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm, a vintage 8-minute Phantasm III: Behind the Scenes segment, an extremely brief deleted scene, the film’s original trailer, and trailers for Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, The Endless, and Afraid (which also open the disc). It’s also worth noting that all of these extras (aside from the commentary) play straight through, ala Laserdisc, when you select one of them, so keep your remote control handy. What you don’t get is an audio commentary with Don Coscarelli and Norman Buckley, the It’s Never Over: The Making of Phantasm III documentary, the Balls of Steel: Bob Ivy’s Stunt for the Ages featurette, a longer set of behind the scenes footage, a radio spot, and a still gallery. Basically, this is a cheaper package if you don’t care so much about the extras, but not having them included is a real disappointment for those who missed out on the boxed set.
The presentation of Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is certainly a good one, but I suspect it won’t be the last we’ll see of it on home video. Again, there’s not much reason to pick it up unless you’re a collector or you didn’t nab the boxed set when it was still in print.
- Tim Salmons