Phantasm (also released as Never Dead in Australia) is a low-budget "cult classic" horror film produced in 1977 and released in 1979. The film was directed, written, photographed, co-produced and edited by Don Coscarelli. It introduced The Tall Man (who was portrayed in the film and its sequels by Angus Scrimm), a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead into dwarf zombies to do his bidding and take over the world. This film was released as a DVD by MGM in 1999 and then re-released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment on April 10, 2007.

The film was originally rated X by the MPAA because of the silver sphere sequence, and due to a scene involving a man urinating on the floor after going down dead. After Los Angeles Times film critic Charles Champlin made a telephone call in a favor to a friend on the board, the rating was changed from the (commercially non-viable) X-rating to R. Champlin's positive review was quoted on the film's promotional posters.[1]

This movie was number 25 on the cable channel Bravo!'s list of the "100 Scariest Movie Moments".

To date the film has three sequels, Phantasm II, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, Phantasm IV: Oblivion.


After the death of their parents, 24 year old musician Jody Pearson is raising his 13 year old brother Mike in a small town disturbed by the mysterious deaths of its citizens. Reggie, a family man and ice cream vendor, joins the brothers in their suspicions that the local mortician, dubbed "The Tall Man", is responsible for the deaths. Mike relays his fears to a fortune teller and her granddaughter about the possibility of Jody leaving town, and Mike in the care of his aunt along with the suspicions of The Tall Man. Mike is shown a small black box and told to put his hand into it. After the box grips his hand, Mike is told not to be afraid and as the panic subsides, the box relaxes its grip. The notion of fear itself as the killer is established and is what propels Mike towards his final confrontation in the film with The Tall Man.

Mike is pursued by minions of the Tall Man, zombie dwarfs made from the bodies of the recently deceased, and tries to convince his brother of what is happening.

After convincing his brother and Reggie, they find a strange white room with containers in the mausoleum. There is also a gateway to another dimension or planet that Mike enters briefly where he sees the dwarfs that have hunted him through the movie being used as slaves. While trying to escape the Tall Man, Reggie is killed. Mike and Jody barely escape. They devise a plan to lure the Tall Man into a local deserted mine shaft and trap him inside. After doing so successfully, Mike wakes with a start in his house, laying by the fireplace with Reggie sitting next to him.

Reggie explains that Mike was simply having a bad dream, something that was common since Jody died in a car crash. This implies that the entire movie has been a dream, wherein Mike was trying to prevent Jody from leaving. Mike goes into his room where the Tall Man is waiting and pulls Mike through his bedroom mirror.

Deleted ScenesEdit

During 1998 MGM re-released Phantasm on VHS and DVD, the movie had a newly remastered Dolby stereo soundtrack. Also, both the VHS and DVD included deleted scenes. The cut footage included two scenes:

  • The first involved Mike entering a room with 2 coffins, one is open and a body is inside, the other is closed but Mike hears sounds from inside it and thinks it’s Reggie. As he tries to open the coffin, Reggie enters the room. When Mike sees him and realizes that something unpleasant is in there, the two close the coffin together. Mike then tells Reggie that they need to find Jody. For some reason, this scene is not included on the Anchor Bay release.
  • The second had Mike and Jody see the Tall Man in the funeral home. Jody shoots the Tall Man several times with his shotgun but it has no effect on him. The Tall Man knocks Mike onto the floor and picks up Jody by the neck with one hand. Mike sees a fire extinguisher and remembers that the Tall Man reacted badly when he passed by Reggie's Ice Cream truck with its refrigerator open. Mike realizes the Tall Man can be hurt by the cold, so he takes out the fire extinguisher and blasts the Tall Man with it just as he's about to kill Jody. The Tall Man withers in pain, suddenly he screams and his head explodes splattering yellow blood all over the walls.

List of deaths Edit

Name Cause of Death Killer On Screen Notes
Tommy Stabbed to death The Tall Man No
Fortuneteller's Granddaughter Killed off-screen Dwarfs No Only screams heard
Dwarf Shot with a shotgun Jody Pearson Partially It was dark
Caretaker Impaled in the head with a sphere, blood sucked out Sphere Yes
Sally Possibly killed Dwarfs No Fate unknown
Susie Possibly killed Dwarfs No Fate unknown
Jody Pearson Died in car crash N/A No Grave seen

Cast Edit

  • Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man
  • Pat Roman as The Mega Dwarf
  • A. Michael Baldwin as Mike Pearson
  • Bill Thornbury as Jody Pearson
  • Reggie Bannister as Reggie
  • Kathy Lester as Lady in Lavender
  • Terrie Kalbus as Fortuneteller's Granddaughter
  • Kenneth V. Jones as Caretaker
  • Susan Harper as Susie
  • Lynn Eastman as Sally
  • David Arntzen as Toby
  • Ralph Richmond as Bartender
  • Bill Cone as Tommy
  • Laura Mann as Double Lavender
  • Mary Ellen Shaw as Fortuneteller
  • Myrle Scotton as Maid

Awards and nominationsEdit

  • Don Coscarelli won the Special Jury Award in 1979, and the film was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 1980.


  1. IMDB Phantasm Trivia

External linksEdit

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