So this initially slipped under my radar, but Don Coscarelli's recent interviews brought it to my attention. Thanks to the computer wizardry of JJ Abram's Bad Robot, Phantasm's creator has been digitally correcting certain effects from the first film. Specifically, he's been fixing imperfections once barely detectable that are now glaringly noticeable in stunning 4K quality. We're taking things like fishing line showing and, according to one of the official stills from the remaster, the holes cut into mausoleum walls for the camera to peak through, a technique that kept the camera crew from being reflected in the ball. Observe the images on your right. The camera hole once so very noticeable in the top image has been digitally removed in the bottom. You can click the image to see the comparison larger.
While most of Coscarelli's touch-ups include removing things, he has revealed there was one special effect where he enhanced something but he's not saying which one yet. Damn, what is with this man and his constant tongue-biting on fascinating topics? Here's a snippet from a new interview he did with Crave Online.
"Well, here's the thing: We cleaned up all our special effects. When we were making the original Phantasm, there were no digital effects back then. Everything was done with Scotch tape and a lot of fishing line. How else did you think we got those balls to fly? And I can tell you now that we removed all the fishing line. Which you used to be able to see in the DVD version of it. Now you can't. And that looks great.
But we did enhance one special effect. And I'm not going to say which one it was. But we did have an early preview of it with some folks who could be very discriminating, and nobody noticed it. So I'm really excited about that."
Ordinarily I'd scoff at anyone changing a classic film from decades ago, but it seems reasonable that Coscarelli would want his baby to look its best in this new transfer. It's not like he's adding in new characters or all-digital balls. The man is far from George Lucas and Special Edition territory. If anyone out there is attending tonight's screening of Phantasm: Remastered at the Alamo Drafthouse, be sure to pay close attention and report back with any findings!