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Phase IV

3.8 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

After a mysterious cosmic event, strange structures and patterns begin to appear in the desert. When scientists begin to investigate their origin, they're shocked to learn that they are the work of super intelligent ants. The ants appear to be trying to communicate with us...and they're not happy about all those magnifying glass experiments! Directed by Oscar® winner Saul Bass, Phase IV is a terrifying glimpse at nature run amok, with amazing ant footage that will make your skin crawl.


[...] A bizarre and unexplainable cosmic event has forever changed the Earth's ant population as we know it. Around the globe, ants are communicating at a level previously thought impossible and organizing themselves in such a manner to suggest the formation of a collective mind. Biologist, Dr. Ernest Hubbs (Nigel Davenport, The Island of Dr. Moreau 77) and information specialist, James Lesko (Michael Murphy, Count Yorga, Vampire) have traveled to the small desert town of Paradise City to research the most recent occurrences of odd ant behavior. The community, once occupied with golf courses and county clubs, has become a barren landscape, as a gathering of ants has driven the town s population to abandon their homes. In their place, the bugs have constructed an impressive number of towering monoliths, which strike upward toward the hot desert sky.

[...] If watching insects and other creepy-crawlies makes you squirm in your seat, Phase IV may not be for you. The film's first eight minutes are almost entirely comprised of ants scurrying around, often framed in close up, almost microscopic shots. This footage was the work of micro photographer Ken Middleham, who would focus his camera on the insect world a year later for William Castle s Bug. Such a realistic take on one of Mother Nature s smallest creatures is in stark contrast to similar science fiction fare of the period. Films like Them! or Empire of the Ants found their conflict by enlarging such critters to make them more overtly threatening. By keeping the insects a familiar size, Phase IV is able to remain planted in reality, while exploring topics that are anything but. The threat seems more eminent as the human race finds itself being threatened, not by being overpowered physically, but by being knocked down a step on the evolutionary ladder.

[...] While the narrative is admittedly not its strongest facet and many may find the film's plot a slow burn, the atmosphere and pace are deliberate and highly effective under the capable direction of Mr. Bass. Saul was a master at graphic design and knew exactly how and where to place images for optimal effect. With very little dialogue to work with, Saul let s the landscapes and environments help lead the plot along, pushing you deeper into the story. You can feel the heat and desperation of the desert town just as thick as you can sense the urgency within the two scientists as they bustle frantically around their research facility, anxiously looking for a way to lower the temperature.

Saul and writer Mayo Simon (Futureworld) were not about to leave you with any clear explanations either. Phase IV raises more questions than it answers, but does so with a clever hand, so as not to leave you feeling cheated. [...] Legend Films has presented Phase IV in a commendable 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. Colors are strong and vibrate, with only few specks of grain and debris that appear to be normal aging of the source print. The mono English audio is easy to follow and complements Brian Gascoigne electronic score well. Dipping deep into the vaults at Paramount, Legend Films has thankfully plucked Phase IV, as well as a number of other genre titles, from obscurity, gratefully allowing them a second life on the digital format. Here s hoping that Paramount leaves that door propped open, as they have numerous added treasures that are ripe for rediscovery! --Jason McElreath of

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, Lynne Frederick
  • Directors: Saul Bass
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Legend Films
  • DVD Release Date: October 1, 2008
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 1606730266
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,251 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Phase IV" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The fragments of information surrounding this production spells sort of a tragedy, I think. I was given the impression that Saul Bass (Director) had been eager to create films of his own, was afforded very little opportunity to do so, and exhausted many of his connections to assemble and fund Phase VI, which ended up a commercial failure and was later relegated to late night TV reruns and low rating time-slots, soon after it's theatrical stagnation and fiscal no-show. Saul is quite famous for his visual acuity, creating title sequences for several dozen films, many of them impressive, and designing movie posters, mostly. In his resume are a few short films as well, one being a promotional film for Solar Energy, which can be found on Youtube, along with several interviews. He also worked with Hitchcock on Psycho and one can find some interesting controversies surrounding the production of that film, specifically regarding accreditation for certain scenes.

Subsequently lost to Phase IV was a Kubrick-like montage, tailing the film and comprising the ending, which had been removed from the original film without consultation with Saul himself and which the studio felt muddled the effect of the ending or confused the audience. This was done prior to release for purely commercial reasons and as one would expect outraged the director. Unfortunately, this sequence is not included on the DVD, nor can it be found online, although fragments can be viewed in the trailer of the film.

Also of note: this DVD offers little in the way of extras, presumably there aren't many regardless, but this isn't quite the selling point. For a while Phase IV has basked in obscurity, and it's a blessing to see it in such relatively high quality on the DVD format.
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Format: DVD
Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974)

Mid-seventies killer-bug flick of the type that was so popular right about then, but pretty good for having such a sedate pace. Two scientists, Lesko (Michael Murphy) and Hubbs (Nigel Davenport), head out into the American desert to study killer ants, but soon find those ants are far more intelligent than they-- or anyone-- had originally believed. After their initial attempt to kill the ants, they find Kendra (the late Lynne Frederick) hiding in the basement of a nearby house, and she, too, becomes part of the team when the ants isolate their base and start with concerted attacks.

Unlike most killer-bug movies, the ants in Phase IV never really show any supernatural powers; they do their thing not by having super-instincts (or, god help us, telekinesis), but by doing what ants do-- chewing through wires, building nests, biting people, that sort of thing. (Well, okay, not the whole time. But the supposed supernatural-ant-powers that crop up we never get any details about. It's like showing the monster's shadow rather than spending $15 million on special effects to show the monster, and by the time you get that far, it's almost believable.) It's almost minimalist in comparison to such flicks as Them! or Night of the Lepus. And therein lies its strength; the horror of the thing is that it halfway makes sense. It doesn't bludgeon the viewer about the head in any way.

This was Bass' only feature-length film (he spent most of his career as a title designer), and it makes one wonder what could have been had he chosen to direct a few more movies. Well worth seeking out. *** ½
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Format: VHS Tape
This, then is one of my Top 10 ever Horror/Sci-Fi Movies. The only intelligent "ant invasion" movie (as much as a classic "Them" may be nontheless). I hope this comes out on DVD real soon. It seems a scientist has discovered and is awaiting some word (or actions) from aliens beyond space at a specified time frame. When the time pases and nothing (seemingly) happens, the scientist is first discouraged but then begins to notice that this other worldly force may have visited us after all. Not in spaceships or in invasion-fashion, but instead by implanting itself within a lifeform so small, us humans would not even notice: namely insects (ants).
The small cast is excellent (see previous reviews), the budget (for once) does not at all distract. Matter of fact, it's isolated, limited sets actually enhance the atmosphere of the film. Matter of fact, the opening is my very favorite part: the vibe is set right away by the voice over narration (by one of the films scientists) over documentary-type scenes of the lonely Arizona desert areas where the film is set are seen. The quiet, eerie introduction really sets the tone of lonely abandonment most effectively (one of the tricks of doing this is that there are no humans shown at all during the opening narration: it's all scenery and atmosphere). The "vibe" created by the visuals in the opening is not to be equalled. Later on, there is some incredibley subdued music that I have forever wished was available to purchase. It's mostly a mixture of early synthesizer music (which manages to still NOT sound dated) and a nice mixture of instruments like electric organ with upright bass that couldn't be better in my mind if it were done with all of todays wonderful technology.
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