• Dan J. Schulte

Phantasm: the delusion of a disordered mind. a phantom. a spirit. a ghost.

Phantasm began for me at probably [the] most influential time in a young boy's life; ten years old. It was December 1978 and my brother and me had just moved to Casper, Wyoming to live with our dad. One of the coolest things about that was dad had HBO and soon after that MTV. We hadn't really made any friends yet so I spent a lot of time watching movies while I adjusted to this new life I was cast into. Phantasm released in theaters March of '79 and the trailer began circulating on TV. Something about it instantly drew my brother and me to the film but there was no way dad was going to take us to see that in theaters. Luckily the wait wouldn't be too long as it would premiere on HBO October 27th 1979 but we were a few months away from that.

At ten, that's a lifetime away! One day I rode my bike down to the Gibsons department store and flipped through their magazine rack discovering a gruesome Fangoria #2 with "The Making of Phantasm" on the cover.

Actual Fangoria #2 I bought at Gibsons, Casper, WY in 1979

I pulled the $2 along with some lint out of my pocket and snapped up a copy. I distinctly remember the spoiler warning in the article so I restrained myself and, though peeking at all the pictures, I refrained from reading the actual article until I saw the film. When PHANTASM finally aired on HBO, October 27th 1979 we both watched it it all it's horrific and sentimental glory. Everything about the film resonated deeply, especially the tender yet cool brotherly relationship of the trio of Mike, Jody and Reggie. The neighborhood aesthetics were identical to our Casper, WY neighborhood. We both especially related to Mike as he was about our age. My brother even joked about how Mike was dressed; Levi's jacket, corduroy pants, cheap Trax shoes and a flannel underneath; my exact style at that time. We both became obsessed with the film and it's music and tried not to miss HBO airings which were very limited back then. Movies usually came back with a couple more airings but not always and there was a point at which they were gone for good. Thankfully my dad was so fascinated with technology we typically had the latest and greatest when it came to just about everything electronic. Dad already had a beta machine so it was a no-brainer to record Phantasm to watch over and over after it was long gone from HBO and Cinemax.

Actual LP I finally ordered from STARLOG a couple years later

It took me a couple years after seeing PHANTASM to finally order the soundtrack LP out of my Starlog magazine. I had never seen an ad for it in any of my magazines but one month, there it was! When Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave's Varese Sarabande LP finally showed up I sat down with my brother and we had a wonderful listenfest in the living room.

1988: PHANTASM is still on the brain. I'm 19, now living in Palm Springs, CA in my studio apartment and managing my local video store. I now own a Nelson Entertainment VHS copy of the film but am having a Mandela Effect. Me and the bro distinctly remember the scene at Morningside when the lights go out and Mike lights up his lighter but the scene is not on the VHS. Of course it turns out we were right. It had been a studio error that had accidentally omitted the scene in the Nelson Entertainment VHS release. It was a huge disappointment to not own the film intact as we had originally seen it.

My original PHANTASM VHS FOX release.

We had left the beta copy back in Casper

and didn't even know if it was still there. A few months later I found an odd VHS copy of PHANTASM in a random video store which was in a pull out CBS Fox box. I thought, maybe...just maybe...this version was complete. When I played it

I was overwhelmed with glee! There it was; Mike flicking his Bic and Reggie talking in the dark for a second, proving that I was not insane. It couldn't get any better....I thought.

My original PHANTASM beta with PHANTASM recorded off HBO from 1980.

April 1988: It had been almost ten years and the original cast and crew had simply vanished like ghosts. Don Coscarelli had done THE BEASTMASTER in 1982 but I wanted a PHANTASM sequel more than anything so I decided if no one else was going to write it, it would be me. So I sat down on my electric typewriter and wrote a letter to Nelson Entertainment, the only connection to PHANTASM I had, to consider a sequel written by myself. Hey. I was a kid...and we dream when we are kids! I received their response that April inviting me to contact New Breed Productions to get more information on the whereabouts of the seemingly elusive director and main cast.

Two months later I went to see RED HEAT with my brother and as we're watching the trailers the word 'Phantasm' followed by it's definition faded onto screen. The next few seconds could only be described as a fantastic stomach drop when you fall on that fair ride. Then we see Reggie onscreen. I was in a daze and for the next hour and forty four minutes as all I could think about was PHANTASM II. A few days later when I went to get my mail I received a response from New Breed Entertainment. A sequel had already been written and it was releasing in July, 1988. The odds that I got the letter so close to all of the events and it all played out that way were practically spiritual.

When PHANTASM II finally premiered there was a one night, midnight showing at a single local theater in Palm Springs, CA which happened to be one of the best theaters in the valley. Problem was the tickets were only available through a radio giveaway. Somehow my brother managed to call and get a chance to answer the trivia question. At that time we were two of the biggest PHANTASM Phans on the planet so any question the DJ could have given us would have been like asking a Star Wars fan who shot first. Broman Steve, won the tickets.

The premiere experience was practically spiritual. They gave away free t-shirts in line and the theater was absolutely packed with a rambunctious and hilarious crowd you usually only see at A-list premieres or cult showings.

I do remember being extremely let down there was no Michael Baldwin in the film since I was so curious as to what he even looked like a decade later (though seeing the flashbacks to the original in the opening brought tears to the eyes) but we still had Reg, Angus and the signature PHANTASM theme rolling out on Christopher Stone's Roland D-50. It must have been fate we caught it in such theatrical glory because a few days later when it opened officially it was literally in the tiniest, worst theater in the valley and disappeared after a week.

Me and the bro with Reggie Bannister, San Diego ComiCon 2002

1988 is now worlds away and so much has happened since that incredible summer. In the 90's my brother created the first DOOM Phantasm level to ever be released on the internet and I created some of the first customized Phantasm figures.

I've been fortunate enough to have met many wonderful PHANTASM Phans and fulfill several childhood dreams over the last 20 years including going to the PHANTASM RAVAGER/Remastered PHANTASM premiere at the Egyptian in Los Angeles in 2016 and watching both films with the entire main cast except Angus Scrimm who had sadly just recently passed.

The biggest highlight for me, however, was that 37 years later my co-conspirator super Phan big brother, my Jody if you will, was sitting right beside me to share the sacred event. To this day PHANTASM remains my favorite film of all time and I continue to compose music inspired by this influential masterpiece. Stay tuned, Boy!