Part of the appeal of Shout! Factory’s line of Scream Factory releas­es is that they give the full bells-and-whistles spe­cial edi­tion treat­ment to Universal Studios hor­ror titles pre­vi­ous­ly con­signed to extras-free “cat­a­log title” sta­tus on DVD.  To name two key exam­ples, Halloween II and The Funhouse illus­trate the ben­e­fits of this process.  Phantasm II is the lat­est Universal hor­ror item to get this treat­ment — and the results will keep hor­ror fans occu­pied for hours on end.

The cen­ter­piece of this pack­age is a new high-def trans­fer of Phantasm II that does jus­tice to its moody, autum­nal visu­al style.  Daryn Okada’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy looks pret­ty rich here thanks to the boost in detail.  In terms of audio, the orig­i­nal 2.0 stereo mix is includ­ed as well as a 5.1 stereo remix.  Both offer a solid mix, with the 5.1 track of course being more adven­tur­ous in how it uses the score and rear-speak­er sound effects (it has a real impact on the view­ing expe­ri­ence dur­ing the film’s event­ful last half-hour).

The extras begin with a com­men­tary track that includes writer/director Don Coscarelli and stars Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm.  It’s a pret­ty live­ly track with every­body tak­ing on their own roles: Coscarelli pro­vides nuts-and-bolts infor­ma­tion on the pro­duc­tion as well as his artis­tic choic­es while Bannister acts as a cheer­lead­er for the series and Scrimm offers his appre­ci­a­tions of the cast from an actor’s mind­set.  There is plen­ty of good behind the sce­nes info to be gleaned here — and an unex­pect­ed sur­prise when Bannister offers his sur­pris­ing­ly philo­soph­i­cal take on the role of Reggie in the Phantasm fran­chise.

And that’s just the begin­ning.  The extras sec­tion real­ly gets going with “The Ball Is Back,” an exhaus­tive, 40-min­utes-plus ret­ro­spec­tive fea­turet­te pro­duced by Red Shirt Pictures.  Coscarelli, Scrimm and Bannister all appear here plus cast mem­bers Paula Irvine and Samantha Phillips and crew mem­bers like pro­duc­er Roberto Quezada and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Daryn Okada.  It offers a his­to­ry of Phantasm II rich­ly tex­tured with anec­dotes like how a hor­ror-besot­ted stu­dio boss made this sequel pos­si­ble and how they got away with blow­ing up a house for the impres­sive open­ing sequence. Phillips in par­tic­u­lar is a spit­fire, telling mem­o­rable tales about her audi­tion and the shoot­ing of the film’s famed humor­ous sex scene.

Another fea­turet­te, enti­tled “The Gory Days,” inter­views FX assis­tant Greg Nicotero.  He dis­cuss­es the events in his career that brought him to Phantasm II and then walks the view­er through all the major effects high­lights in detail.  Not only does he go into tech­ni­cal detail, he also offers the occa­sion­al aes­thet­ic aside like how the Tall Man “melt­down” sequence was a com­pendi­um of tech­niques from films that had influ­enced FX design­er Mark Shostrom and every­one else work­ing on the sequence’s design.  He also touch­es on how the Phantasm II shoot coin­cid­ed with the birth of KNB-EFX (they were moon­light­ing at the same time, doing their first-ever solo gig on Intruder).  FX fans will love this seg­ment, which is skill­ful­ly assem­bled by fea­turet­te vet David Gregory.

The extras sec­tion also includes an array of sce­nes cut from the film at var­i­ous stages.  They’re bro­ken down into two cat­e­gories.  “Deleted Scenes” are pri­mar­i­ly exten­sions of sce­nes that appear in the film and are trans­ferred direct­ly from Coscarelli’s col­lec­tion of cel­lu­loid trims.  These bits are inter­est­ing in that they show how the intent and tone of dia­logue sce­nes can be changed by a few judi­cious snips.  “Additional Scenes” are sce­nes cut from the film entire­ly as well as extend­ed ver­sions of FX sequences and are pre­sent­ed here from an old VHS-qual­i­ty video mas­ter.  There’s some fun stuff to be had here, par­tic­u­lar­ly a “tele­pathic sex” fan­ta­sy sequence that is pret­ty amus­ing.

There is also two seg­ments’ worth of behind-the-sce­nes cam­corder footage.  “On The Set” focus­es on film­mak­ing on action and stunt sce­nes, with the major high­light being the film’s dra­mat­ic “house explo­sion” scene.  The real-time logis­tics of how this scene was filmed are pret­ty inter­est­ing.  “Makeup And Effects” shows off the com­plex­i­ty of the film’s many and var­ied shock sequences and is full of dark­ly amus­ing sights, includ­ing every­thing from a mon­ster-suit­ed midget enjoy­ing a smoke to Angus Scrimm enact­ing the pain of an air-blad­der assist­ed melt­down.

Just as much atten­tion is devot­ed to pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als.  Trailers are includ­ed for the first three Phantasm films as well as a series of dif­fer­ent t.v. spots (both the the­atri­cal and t.v. spots for Phantasm II include a fun bit from the film that was reshot espe­cial­ly for the trail­er).  There are also three sep­a­rate still gal­leries that delve into behind the sce­nes shots, make­up effects and poster/promo art.

Finally, the most nov­el inclu­sion here is an old Encyclopedia Brittanica edu­ca­tion­al short about the life of Abraham Lincoln.  This seem­ing­ly odd inclu­sion makes sense if you know that star Rory Guy, essay­ing the role of Lincoln, is actu­al­ly a young Angus Scrimm.  It’s actu­al­ly a pret­ty decent “Cliff’s Notes” ver­sion of the Lincoln sto­ry, with Guy/Scrimm deliv­er­ing a solid, straight­for­ward dra­mat­ic por­tray­al.

All in all, this is anoth­er strong release from Scream Factory that res­cues a wor­thy Universal hor­ror film from the cat­a­log-DVD dol­drums.  If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll want to grab it, tout suite.

To read Schlockmania’s film review for Phantasm II, click here.