Phantasm appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the film’s age and low-budget origins as well as the limitations of SD-DVD, this proved to be a pretty decent image.
Sharpness became the weakest link, as wider shots tended toward softness. Close-ups and medium takes showed fairly positive delineation, but anything else came across as tentative. Still, overall clarity worked well most of the time.
I detected no issues with moiré effects or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes. The movie also suffered from no print flaws.
Colors tended toward the brown side of natural, so they didn’t boast a lot of pep. Nonetheless, they appeared to suit the film and came across with reasonable clarity.
Blacks tended to be dark and tight, whereas shadows were largely positive. Some nighttime shots appeared a bit dense, but those issues didn’t become problematic. While not demo reel material, this turned into a mostly satisfying presentation.
I also felt pleased with the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Remixed from the original mono – which also appeared on the DVD – the multichannel track showed a pretty good soundscape.
Within reason, that is, as the mix didn’t go nuts. That was fine with me, as I prefer remixed material like this to keep matters restrained, and that’s what Phantasm did much of the time.
Music showed nice stereo spread, while effects blossomed to the side and rear channels in a fairly convincing manner. Horror/action scenes offered the most bang for the buck, and the whole mix showed good delineation and localization.
Movement seemed surprisingly strong. When the movie’s famous “killer ball” went into action, it zipped from one channel to another in an effective manner. The track kept things low-key for the most part and used the spectrum to its advantage.
Audio quality also held up, with speech as the weakest link. Though intelligible and without edginess, the lines tended to seem somewhat flat and dull – inevitable given the age/origins of the source recordings.
Effects came across with better range – they didn’t dazzle, but they showed decent pep. Music worked best of all, as the score boasted nice kick and offered better than expected warmth. Again, this wasn’t a killer track, but it suited the film.
A few extras fill out the disc, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Don Coscarelli and actors Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury. Recorded for a 1990s laserdisc, all four sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, effects, working on a low budget and related topics.
Though all four participants throw out some good notes, Coscarelli dominates the commentary. Happily, he does so in an informative, engaging manner. Coscarelli ensures that we learn a lot about the production, so this ends up as a very good chat.
An episode of Graveyard Carz runs 11 minutes, 22 seconds. It shows attempts to restore a “tribute car” that resembles one from the movie. Coscarelli and Baldwin pop up to give their approval in this mildly interesting show.
Next we get 27 minutes, 54 seconds of 1979 interviews with Coscarelli and Scrimm. Film professor George Capewell chats with them about aspects of Phantasm and its production. Shot for a Florida station, it’s a good piece that works much better than one would expect for local TV.
Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 59 seconds. Some minor creepy bits emerge, but most of these offer tedious character sequences that add nothing of merit.
The disc opens with ads for Train to Busan, The Wailing and Kill Zombie. We also get Phantasm trailers from 1979 and for the remastered home video release.
Phantasm made a dent in the horror scene almost 40 years ago and it continues to entertain today. Weird, wacky and wild, the movie takes us down a series of crazy paths and packs a nutty punch. The DVD offers generally good picture and audio as well as a decent selection of bonus materials. Phantasm deserves its status as a cult classic.
Note that this version of the movie appears as part of a “Phantasm 5 Movie DVD Collection”. In addition to the original film, this package includes Phantasm II: The Ball Is Back, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, Phantasm IV: Oblivion and Phantasm V: Ravager.