The Phantasm Sphere Collection (Well Go USA) Blu-ray Review


In 2017, Well Go USA released The Phantasm Collection, a box set that included all five Phantasm films and loaded with special features. In 2019, they released The Phantasm Sphere Collection, which adds more to the already plentiful amount of special features from the first set plus a new scan of Phantasm II. Is it worth buying again?

Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: March 28th, 1979 (Phantasm) / July 8th, 1988 (Phantasm II) / May 6th, 1994 (Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead) / October 13th, 1998 (Phantasm: OblIVion) / October 7th, 2016 (Phantasm: Ravager) (theatrical/video) / December 3rd, 2019 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 89 mins (Phantasm) / 97 mins (Phantasm II) / 91 mins (Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead) / 90 mins (Phantasm: OblIVion) / 85 mins (Phantasm: Ravager)
Region Code: A (locked)
Picture: 1080p (1.78:1 aspect ratio) (Phantasm, Phantasm III, Phantasm: OblIVion, and Phantasm: Ravager) (1.85:1 aspect ratio) (Phantasm II)
Sound: English Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (Phantasm) / English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Phantasm II) / English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Phantasm III, Phantasm: OblIVion, and Phantasm: Ravager)
Subtitles: English SDH (all titles)
Slipcover: No
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury (all films)
Written by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Phantasm II, Phantasm III, and Phantasm: OblIVion) / Don Coscarelli and David Hartman (Phantasm: Ravager)
Directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Phantasm II, Phantasm III, and Phantasm: OblIVion) / David Hartman (Phantasm: Ravager)
Rating: R (Phantasm and Phantasm: OblIVion) / Unrated (Phantasm II and Phantasm III), Not Rated (Phantasm: Ravager)


Reviews for the previous set:

Phantasm (1979)

Phantasm II (1988)

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Phantasm: OblIVion (1998)

Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

The Phantasm Collection (as a whole)

Three years ago, Well Go USA released the PHANTASM series on blu-ray in a really nice boxset. This set included all five films in the series (PHANTASM, PHANTASM II, PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD, PHANTASM: OBLIVION, and PHANTASM: RAVAGER), a host of special features like commentaries, making ofs, and deleted scenes, a nice double-sided poster, and a booklet with interviews from the main players from the first film. This was a really nice set that didn’t really break the bank and provided hours upon hours of entertainment.


The thing that a lot of people had a problem with was that PHANTASM II was the only film in the series that did not receive a new transfer. The transfer used here is the same one used for the Scream Factory disc (in fact, the IS the Scream Factory disc just with different disc art.) and while it is more than serviceable, it paled in comparison to the transfers on the other discs.

Also, people were mad that the workprint version of PHANTASM II was not included either. What they really wanted was an unrated version of the film, but they would have settled for the workprint, which includes more gore.

Other than that, people were very happy with the 2017 box set. It included just about everything a Phantasm fan could ever want and was actually a dream come true for those who wanted all the films in one set.


Then 2019 came around and Well Go USA decided to re-release the set, this time with some new features and some kick-ass packaging. This is, basically, the same release from 2017 except for the following:

Phantasm:

          Disc 1: Phantasm

                    -english dolby atmos 7.1
                    -dunes cantina audio commentary with writer/director don coscarelli, cast, and crew
                    -Phantasm: A Horse Drawn Hearse

           Disc 2: Phantasm II (unrated)
                 
                    -new 4k scan of the original camera negative supervised and approved by don coscarelli
                    -english dts-hd master audio 4.0

           Disc 6: Bonus disc
           
                    -phantasm: Ravager: How it was made
                    -promos for phantasm: Ravager on dvd/blu-ray and the phantasm collection (2017)

The new extras on disc one are a mixed bag. The new commentary is nice if unusual. The new dolby atmos track is nice as well. THE HORSE DRAWN HEARSE is just a reel of The Tall Man looking at the camera then smiling over and over and over again. I know that die-hard fans will love this, but I found it rather pointless.


The brand new 4K scan of PHANTASM II is the best thing overall among the new stuff in this set. The film looks absolutely gorgeous and really film like. Not only does this new scan bring the film up to the same level of the other films’ transfers, but it finally gives the film its due. It’s always felt that Universal never really gave two shits about PHANTASM II as the film was usually bundled with other films when released on dvd. While it did get a single dvd release, it wasn’t untill Scream Factory got ahold of the film that the film was given its due. Well Go USA has done a wonderful job breathing new life into PHANTASM II. Here is a comparison between the 2017 Well Go USA disc vs. the 2019 Well Go USA disc.


Not only does PHANTASM II get a new scan, but the scan is that of the unrated version of the film. This unrated version of PHANTASM II isn’t some long lost cut of the film. No, unfortunately, this version just replaces some shots from the priest’s death that the MPAA found offensive. Much like how the difference between the R-rated and Unrated versions of CANDYMAN were just shot replacements, the same fate is bestowed upon PHANTASM II. There is no difference in run time between the two versions as the R-rated shots are replaced with Unrated shots of equal length. The fact that the MPAA had a problem with these shots in the first place just shows that they have no idea what they are doing.


The discs for PHANTASM III, IV, and RAVAGER are the exact same as the 2017 boxset. There is nothing that can really be said about these three films that aren’t already on those discs. Sure, it would have been nice to have the extras can only be found on the Arrow Video U.K. set, but that would actually make the Arrow set less impressive. It’s like how when Studiocanal released those four John Carpenter blu-rays a few years ago, they got some of the Scream Factory special features, but not all of them.


The bonus disc is where we can find the final new special features. PHANTASM: RAVAGER: HOW IT WAS MADE is a feature-length making of that was sorely missing from the 2017 set. Now, much of the footage can be found in other featurettes on the RAVAGER disc, but it is nice for the film to have a proper making of like the other films in the set have. I really had a lot of fun with this making of. I like that RAVAGER was made, not out of necessity, but out of just wanting to make it. This is a film, for better or for worse, that is made because the filmmakers really wanted to make it. The worst reason to make a film is purely monetary. There are countless films out there that wish they had as much love for them as RAVAGER has. There are some promos that were not on the last set that are here for completist’s sake.


The last thing I want to talk about is the packaging. The 2017 set had very attractive packaging that was also economical. It fit on the shelf nicely and gave each film its own case with that film’s original poster art. There was also a nice two-sided poster as well as a booklet with interviews with the original film’s cast and crew. This was, and still is, a beautiful set that any fan would love to have in their collection.


That being said, I REALLY like the packaging for this new set. I always thought that Well Go USA dropped the ball by not having a ball included with the 2017 set. I mean, the sphere is just as iconic to the Phantasm series as the Tall Man, so not including the flying silver killing machine seemed like a huge missed opportunity. I feel like Well Go USA knew this, so when they announced the 2019 set, they knew that they had to include the sphere. Not only did they include the sphere but they made the entire package look like the mausoleum from the first film. While the packaging is a little cumbersome to use, the digibook that holds the discs is underneath everything, so getting them out while keeping the packaging looking nice is a bit of a pain. What I am impressed with is the sphere itself. There is a nice weight to the sphere and we even get the blades that make the sphere so dangerous. It would have been nice to have the drill on the sphere as well, but that is a minor complaint.
The digibook holding the discs is a bit flimsy as the pages are kept together by two metal buttons that are not the best thing to hold these pages together. One of the buttons in my set doesn’t hold the middle page all that well, so much so that the page keeps coming loose. I do like the look of the digibook, though, so it is a small complaint that I can probably fix with a dab of glue.


There are a few things missing from this set that were found in the 2017 set. The first is the individual cases for each film, so the original theatrical poster cover art is gone. I liked this one the last set and definitely miss them here. The second is the double-sided poster. I have the poster hanging on my wall and thought that it was a nice inclusion with the last set. It wouldn’t have been that hard to include with the new set so I am not sure why there was a reprint of the poster for the 2019 set. The third is the booklet with the interviews. I am not missing this booklet as the interviews were just things we heard in the special features on the various disc in the set. I am always for the inclusion of a booklet, but this was one that I do not miss from the 2017 set.

So, the big question comes down to: Is it worth buying the set a second time? I will say yes, but it depends on how much of a fan you are of the series. If you have bought these films multiple times over the years, then you are the perfect person to pick this set up. You have been here for the long haul and you deserve the best. However, if you bought the last set because it was the cheapest way to get all the films in the series in one set, then this new set probably doesn’t have enough new material to justify another purchase. I just became a fan of this series because of the previous set, and I wrestled for a long time whether I was going to buy this new set or not. It took me months to come to the decision that I was going to plunk the money to get the new set. The new extras and the new scan for part II was enough for me. So, it is worth it for die-hard fans, but not so much for fans who may not get that much out of the new material.


Well Go USA performed a miracle when they released the 2017 box set. I even remember where I was when I read about the set and that says something about how important that set was. Seeing all of these films in one collection was so amazing. This was something that fans, at least in the U.S., never thought would ever happen. The 2019 set is a truly beautiful set that contains everything from the 2017 set (disc based that is) along with new material and a fresh scan for PHANTASM II. I love both sets, but the new 2019 set has everything that a PHANTASM phan would ever need and then some. I highly recommend the 2019 set, but if you can’t get a hold of the 2019 set, the 2017 set is no slouch and will be a perfect alternative.

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