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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

Hell Plaza Oktoberfest III

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Phantasm II

Phantasm II
1988 (2009) - Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Released on DVD on September 15th, 2009

Last year, Hell Plaza Oktoberfest II took an in-depth look at Don Coscarelli's Phantasm series. Well, as in-depth as was possible at the time since the second film was conspicuously absent on DVD (at least here in Region 1). At last, American ball-handlers can squeeze a little shelf space between Phantasm and Phantasm III as Universal has finally seen fit to release Phantasm II from their vaults.

As became the norm for this series, Phantasm II picks up exactly where the original left off with Mike being abducted by the Tall Man's dwarf slaves. Reggie (Reggie Bannister), still downstairs strumming his guitar after all this time, comes to the rescue and we flash forward several years.

Mike (now played for the first and only time by James LeGros) pretends to accept that the Tall Man was just a figment of his imagination and is released from the mental institution he's been kept in. He returns home to pick up the chase. Reggie joins up wholeheartedly after his family is killed and the quest for the Tall Man begins again.

Given a much bigger budget than he had before (or would again), Coscarelli seems to have spent most of his extra money on pyrotechnics. There are no less than three gigantic explosions in this entry and everything blows up real good. LeGros was also a studio-imposed decision. Universal wanted bigger names than Bannister and original star A. Michael Baldwin and while Bannister ended up making the grade, Baldwin had to be replaced (Phantasm Phun Phact: among the young actors who auditioned for the role of Mike was a kid named Brad Pitt!). While it would have been nice for Baldwin to have been given a chance, LeGros is just fine in the role.

Besides, the truly indispensable star of the series has always been Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man. Scrimm is once again delightfully evil in the role and my main beef with Phantasm II is that we don't get to see enough of him. The movie starts off well but after Mike and Reggie load up on weaponry (including the creation of Reggie's sawed-off quad-barreled shotgun), Phantasm II goes to sleep for awhile. The mid-section of the movie is far too protracted and it isn't until our heroes finally track down the Tall Man's new cemetery that things pick up again. The finale is fun with the introduction of some new help for the Tall Man (a pair of creepy twin morticians) and plenty of flying sphere action. It just takes a little too long to get there.

The good news with this disc is that it exists at all. It looks and sounds reasonably good for its age, although it's obvious that keeping Phantasm II in pristine condition has not been top priority for Universal. Unfortunately, the only extra included is the original trailer. This is a major disappointment coming on the heels of Anchor Bay's packed versions of the other three movies, especially when you consider that Bay UK's edition of Phantasm II features commentary, TV spots and more. It's also worth noting that this is the R-rated theatrical version of Phantasm II and Coscarelli was forced to make a number of cuts to avoid getting slapped with an X. I believe I speak for Phantasm Phans everywhere when I say that an uncut special edition of this movie would be very, very much appreciated.

Don't get me wrong... I'm delighted to finally have the complete Phantasm series on my shelf without having to resort to a pricy import. But the fact that Universal continues to cling to the rights to a movie they clearly have little to no interest in vexes me. I'd love for Anchor Bay to pick up the domestic rights to Phantasm II and do it justice. Until that happens, execs at Universal will continue to incur the wrath of the Tall Man.

Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/D-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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