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[...] 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 DVDDrive-In.com
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A guilty pleasure, I remember watching it as a kid when it came out so I rented it to watch again, but really this is an awful low-budget movie.Published 2 months ago by Jobu88
this is an old friend of mine; I watched it years ago and wondered why it wasn't more of a cult classic.Published 6 months ago by Janet Rutherford
A overlooked Sc- Fi classic about those tiny pests that we squish and spray everyday Ants.Unlike them they do not become huge but stay the same size. Read morePublished 10 months ago by MARK OTTER
This review is not for the movie itself. It is not a new movie by any stretch so I won't review it. This review is for the DVD, the film to DVD transfer. Read morePublished 10 months ago by MT
Clearly this move suffers from age. The only plus is the ant clips which are remarkable for an era before cgi. Read morePublished 12 months ago by gustav zantanon
A fine film in a sci-fi sub-genre, the intellectual "bug movie," PHASE IV predates ZOO and MIMIC as a narrative that suggests that there is more to animal behavior than we... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Christopher K. Brooks
Phase IV is less flawed masterpiece than clumsy student film, occasionally relieved by striking visuals. Read morePublished 15 months ago by DoctorD
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