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Phantasm III: Lord Of The Dead (Blu-ray Review)

In 2017 (Kinda the end of 2016, but hear me out), one of my BIGGEST bucket list items for Blu-ray finally was checked off; the entire Phantasm series arrived on Blu-ray. The iconic Tall Man’s entire chronicles of antagonizing the ice cream man Reggie and his friend Mike arrived in glorious restored 1080p glory. The first film features an outstanding restoration from JJ Abrams and company during the post production of The Force Awakens. Last year, everything was only available via limited edition boxed sets from Arrow and Well Go USA. Now, Well Go USA is finally giving Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion standalone releases. So, for those of you who missed out on the now out of print set, you can snag yourself the only two entries not available by themselves on September 18th. This review will cover the third film, Lord of the Dead, that featured the return of A. Michael Baldwin to the series to reclaim his role of “Mike”(He was replaced by James LeGros in the previous installment).

Film 

The evil alien known as the Tall Man has infiltrated the minds of Mike and Reggie. The two friends embark on a journey to find and kill him, only to discover that he has destroyed town after town, leaving zombies in place of the living. Along the way, Mike and Reggie meet several characters who share their goal, including a murderous boy named Tim and two young women who are excellent fighters.

After the studio driven Phantasm II, Don Coscarelli returned with more full control of his franchise. In his third film in the series he was able to return actor A. Michael Baldwin to the role he began with the first film but lost out on for the sequel due to the studio mandated recasting of James LeGros. It also allowed him to bring back Bill Thornbury as Jody. Unfortunately not all of the cast from the second movie returns, but it also opens the door for new avenues and characters. Like for instance, Gloria Lynne Henry’s badass nunchuck twirling ass-kicker, Rocky. She’s so terrific in this, you’ll be asking for a spinoff.

While the budget for this third film was less and (I’m pretty sure) it was a straight to video film, there is no real dip in quality production-wise that is at all noticeable. In fact, the film pretty much feels like it keeps the steam rolling on from the sequel. After a bit of a prologue to set up our story, we continue on with the road trip aspect that the second film utilized in telling the story. It also cements that Reggie is the full blown lead of the series, with actor Reggie Bannister the real deal lead of the film. In fact, he’s given a young companion even, to try to muster up some of what his dynamic had going for it in the first film.

Lord of the Dead does get a little more campier, but maintains a high integrity in terms of its gore factor. Some of these kills and make up effects are just flat out awesome. And the kid’s house in the film leaves me wanting more in terms of exploring it (Its definitely People Under the Stairs influenced). Many of the mausoleum scenes evoke that royal sense of creepiness that gives the series its real character. Jason has summer camps, Michael stalks suburbia and the Tall Man has his mausoleums. The film also instills some really fun humor to add to it, via some campy undead baddies or just the shear nature of Reggie’s perviness.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that this is an unpopular entry in the series, but I’ve always really liked it. It carries much of what made the second one a fun film in its own right and then twists and adds to it. The Tall Man is kept to a perfect amount of effective usage and they bring A. Michael Baldwin back right away, but have us waiting most of the film to see him finally return. Things in this film are quite unpredictable and it really does keep you on your toes while delivering some of the sci-fi terror, gore and action the series is known for.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Phantasm III boasts a really terrific transfer on Blu-ray. It sports a 1.78:1 aspect ratio instead of the theatrical 1.85:1. Details are quite strong with a good crisp picture. This is one of the more brighter movies of the series as it features some daytime sequences. Overall, Well Go has done this picture some rather royal service with its look.

Depth:  There are some really impressive moments with 3 dimensional appeal in a couple spots in this movie that will really open your eyes. The push back and depth of field is pretty immersive in those moments. For the most part, the remainder does feature terrific spacing and free, smooth movements with no real distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and sometimes can be a hair too consuming, hiding a little detail. Otherwise, shadows and darkness in here are quite complimentary to the picture and no crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: This might be the most colorful of the films as it features some nice goo, filtered scenes and flashy clothing that provide a nice pop in the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial textures and details are terrific from any reasonable given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean. No real distracting or major issues.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Phantasm III gives you a nice surround mix or the original stereo audio mix to choose from. The 5.1 however, is now slouch and is a pretty immersive experience with great layering and fun usage of the rear channels to engulf the viewer into every ball-busting scene.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: There is some good punch to the subwoofer with kicks landing, the shotgun blasting, explosions and more, but it could fit to hit a bit harder if it wanted to.

Surround Sound Presentation: This track sports some pretty good and involving usage of the rear speakers with the front. The score can fill in with the added rear channels and the environments are plenty accurate. There’s a great moment of just a typical “meat and potatoes” surround scene where Reggie comes toward the screen from a distance where an exploded hearse is and the rear channels loudly produce the crackling fire.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clear with a surprisingly good attention to diction.

Extras 

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead‘s standalone Blu-ray release does not contain all the bonus material found for it in the edition in the Collector’s set released last year. It has been stripped down to some very basic supplements. Those hoping to see the retrospective documentary on the film are going to be sorely disappointed.

Audio Commentary

  • With Stars A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm

Phantasm III: Behind the Scenes (SD, 8:52) – A montage of on-set footage from the film featuring some make-up, shooting of scenes, cast and crew interaction, Coscarelli directing and more.

Deleted Scene (HD, :11)

Trailer (HD, 1:19)

Summary 

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is a nice fun entry into the series the continues more with the style of the second film, while adding a couple new elements. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray of the film is the same transfer and audio from their box set, which is a great video image to go with a rock solid audio presentation. Unfortunately, they have skimped on the extras and you’re losing some of the richest material from the box set. But, importantly, the film is now readily available again from physical media.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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