Screening Phantasm With The Tall Man

From a respectful write-up on Texas Frightmare Weekend by Dread Central:

Can we stop calling Texas Frightmare Weekend a “regional con” now? The first reader I met this year was Aaron from Australia, who had flown all the way here to experience TFW as his FIRST con.

I met that guy! Twice. Sat right next to him at the special 35mm screening of Phantasm at the Alamo Draft House in Richardson. Cool guy. He was in fact, the first person that I met as well on my little Texas Frightmare Weekend adventure.

The day before TFW kicked off they did some screenings of old movies with stars in attendance. I heard about three. There was one they did with Sid Haig at the Old Texas Theater – Whatever happened to Spider Baby, I believe it was. Then Neve Campbell was there at the Alamo Drafthouse for Scream. That apparently happened just before I got there.

Then there was the one I was there to see – Phantasm, in glorious 35mm. It was to be the final ever screening in 35mm, as the film stock was deteriorating too badly. Apparently the reel we were watching was director Don Coscarelli’s own personal copy. The entire cast (minus Reggie Banister, who had a flight delay or some such issue) plus Mr. Coscarelli was in attendance giving live commentary throughout the movie.

To be honest, this was the highlight of TFW for me and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for similar events next year.

To those of you who do not live within near proximity of an Alamo Drafthouse, I’m sorry. There are plenty of cinema/eateries around, at least in Dallas, but imagine one run by cinephiles who also had a fondness for top-shelf liquor, and you’ve got Alamo Drafthouse.

They do cutesy things with the menu like offer themed drinks and meals to go along with the movie you’re watching, because presumably they give a damn about what they are doing and the experience they provide to the patron. I had a glass of “Mother’s Milk”, for instance, while I watched Fury Road. A creamy concoction of Maker’s Mark and other stuff. Actual mother’s milk? I don’t recall.

Also, the halls are covered in retro movie posters whose awesomeness I can barely describe.

I’m not ashamed to say I wanted to steal that one. But, you know, crime and the police and all. At a certain point in my childhood I was that guy in the movie poster. Had my own ninja outfit, my own homemade (and some actual) ninja weapons, the whole ninja schmear. I thought I was the only guy that remembered that movie. Still has what I consider to be the greatest choreographed fight scene of all time.

To kick off the screening, some guy from the Drafthouse came out to introduce Coscarelli and the rest of the cast. He was young guy. Cursed a lot, I thought maybe to identify with us fans, who were presumably a bunch of rough, cursing plebes. Immediately before that we were treated to an extended cut of the new Phantasm Ravager movie currently in production, featuring all the members of the original cast. I have to say, what we saw looked great.

The movie is still in the editing stages and it sounds like distribution is a little sketchy at the moment, but they hope to have something out this year. And it sounds like it’ll definitely be showing at the Alamo Drafthouse, so SCORE. You know I’ll be there, sipping a Phan-tini or something and eating a Ravageburger with Tall Fries.

After some discussion about the new film with Coscarelli and the guy in charge of Ravager, they introduced the cast.

Don Coscarelli struck me as a very personable, approachable, interesting guy who enjoys and is still somewhat mystified by the success and endurance of this movie he made in his early twenties at his Mom’s house. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that his followup to Phantasm was Beastmaster, starring Marc Singer, also a favorite of mine as a young kid. I did not know that!

David Hartman, the man pictured above just to the left of Coscarelli, is the director of Ravager. He has worked mostly as an animator and artist, and the vast majority of his experience as a director has been with children’s cartoons. He’s a big fan of the Phantasm series, though, and seemed honored to be asked to do direct the new movie. I forget exactly what his connection was to Coscarelli. I suppose you could Google that if you cared.

Kat Lester had a fun and flirtatious personality. Obviously very proud of her role in the movie. She makes her living now as a vampy singer, I believe. She seemed to have a crush on Bill Thornbury, but it felt like part of the act.

Michael Baldwin, who played the kid “Mike” in Phantasm, was a wisecracking smartass, but in a charming way, I suppose. He skipped out halfway through the screening to flirt with some girls in the lobby. #Hollywood.

More on Bill Thornbury later.

Reggie Bannister couldn’t make it, as mentioned earlier, but according to Coscarelli and the rest of the cast the character you see in the movie is EXACTLY WHAT HE’S LIKE IN REAL LIFE. I would have like to have seen him drive up the Drafthouse in that ice cream truck, then. Probably has some pot-filled Klondike bars in there.

Horror legend Angus Scrimm, the venerable “Tall Man” of the movie, shuffled to the front of the theater to the sound of thunderous applause and a standing ovation. As a kid, what impressed me about the character of the Tall Man was his weirdness; his awkward gait (a natural side-effect of the lifts he used to augment his height), his anachronistic haircut, his gruff and terse demeanor. In real life Angus Scrimm is nothing like that at all. He’s more like a genteel old grandpa, and is treated as such by his many adoring fans and no less so by his fellow cast members and associates. Angus is old, and he shows his age. He’s a little hard of hearing, a little slow to follow lines of conversation. But he could be witty, and gracious, and had just as good a recall of those events of the filming nearly forty(!) years ago as any of the others. Don and Kat seemed especially deferential to him.

After introducing everyone they had a short Q&A session. I really wasn’t prepared, but I did chime in to ask whatever happened to that sweet muscle car from the movie.

Coscarelli had a sad note to add to what he said in the above clip: last he heard the ‘Cuda was rusting away in some scrapyard in Florida, being used for parts. What an inglorious end to such a cool car! No word on whatever happened to Reggie’s ice cream truck.

However, my exclamation seemed to grab the attention of Bill Thornbury, who played Mike’s big brother in the movie. After the Q&A he walked over to shake hands with me and Aaron and another fellow with whom we were in conversation. By some amazing luck I managed to reserve seats directly behind where the cast was seated, and immediately behind Bill.

Turns out he’s a really cool, laid back kind of guy. He’s a real musician, too. He and Reggie did a little set at the Phantasm Ball the opening night of TFW. Regretfully I missed it, because I really, really wanted to hear the full-cut live performance of Sitting Here at Midnight.

Damn.

Here’s the clip from the movie. I think you will agree it is HOT AS LOVE. When I met Aaron and our other acquaintance the next day at the ball, they let me know I missed the performance. Apparently they did like four songs together. Come to think of it, I never even saw Reggie Bannister the entire time, not even at the table. My loss!

One of us asked Bill how he ended up getting cast in the movie, and his story was fairly typical, I guess. Agent hooked him up with an audition. He was playing in a band at the time. We chatted for a while. He thanked us for being fans and for coming out to the screening.

Then kind of an odd thing happened.