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.