Olive Films Blu-ray: Phase IV (1974)

Phase IV (1974)

Company: Olive Films

Starring: Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, Lynne Frederick, Alan Gifford, Robert Henderson, and Helen Horton.

My Review and Thoughts:

Here is an often overlooked sci-fi horror that mixes all the elements of an odd twisted thriller through imagery and imagination. This film is under appreciated and hated bad many, or at least reviewed horribly. It bombed during its theater release. Over time it has gained a following in the cult status reality, which I feel it does belong there. Thankfully Olive Films has honored this killer bug feature with a great, new outlet.

The plot is about ants which have through some event of a cosmic nature, evolved. This evolution of the species has lead the ants to have a thinking mind/Hive. This cosmic event has created levels of phases in this evolution. These ants in there evolution have started to create these elaborate structures in the desert. Now you are introduced to your two main characters, both scientist that have moved to the desert of Arizona to study these creatures. James and Ernest, study, try and understand these creatures, and what is happening to them. Little did they know, the ants are a little more aggressive then they originally thought. So begins the struggle of man and ant in a fight of scientific destruction leading down a path of evolution, cosmic creation, and ultimate death.

This film actually has an artistic reality to it. Mainly due to the director who in life was a graphic designer. That artistic reality bleeds into the film. Directed by Saul Bass. This would be Bass’s only film he directed. The reality of that is because of the failure of this film at the box office, and that’s a true sham, because you can see a uniqueness, and originality in the film brought by Bass’s direction. What is amazing about Bass is he has worked on films for some of the greatest directors of all time, plus he is an Academy Award winner. He worked alongside, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, and many others. Bass worked on such films as the one of kind Psycho, Vertigo, Spartacus, West Side Story, Bunny Lake is Missing, Big, Goodfellas, Casino, Higher Learning, and many, many others. Interesting to note you might not know his name, but you probably see his work every week, or sometimes every day. He designed many logos for companies including AT&T’s Globe logo.

He also was responsible for some of the greatest movie posters. His posters are a loving example of his expertise in crafted art. His posters are a pure eye candy of imagery that makes you remember his skill, and talent in creating visuals. All one has to do is look at the posters he crafted for movies, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, The Man with the Golden Arm which he also worked his skill into the movie. Posters for The Shinning, Anatomy of a Murder, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, and many others. Now I have to mention one of the key, and most memorable shots in all of cinema history, the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Bass was a key figure in creating that imagery. His storyboards showcased everything in detail, creating one of the most haunting moments in cinema. It is said Hitchcock followed the panels to a key. He put everything that was drawn into that shower scene. Bass created everything of what you see, the killer in silhouette, shower curtain torn, the knife, drain and close of of the eye. Bass was the very definition of what that scene detailed. The expertise of Hitchcock alongside the talented haunting imagery of Bass would create cinema history. That is the importance to remember key figures in the movie business. Bass gave so much to cinema. He might not be a house hold name (he should be) but he has forever made a mark on cinema history. 

Phase IV might not be a worthy film to put up there with the work he has done on masterpieces in film, but it is a film worthy to remember, and experience this iconic man. Phase IV is a unique film. Olive Films has spotted that reality, and given a new outlet to its ultimate visual importance.

The original screenplay was written by Mayo Simon. Simon was an author and also a playwright. Simon also wrote the screenplay for the Sci-fi Marooned (1969) and the 1976’s Futureworld, which was the sequel to Westworld. Something else that stands out is the opening title music. Also in the film is the sounds of an electronic ear orgy of tunes. The title music was performed and created by composer Stomu Yamashta. The electronic music was created by David Vorhaus and Desmond Briscoe. Vorhaus is part of the White Noise group that has been around since 1968 and still functions today. They are an experimental electronic music group. Desmond Briscoe was a composer and sound engineer. The music is something else that adds to the spark of this film being something that stands out.  

Ultimately Phase IV is an artistic mind trip into an unknown understanding of nature and all its screwy acid trip moments. There is imagery, flashes and total confusion in spots that adds to its unique blend of plot, acting, and artistic mastery. This is a film not for everyone. It’s different, odd, and most of all strange. There have been many ant movies such as, the must see, Them!, the corny drive-in b-movie, Empire of the Ants, and even TV movies such as, It Happened at Lakewood Manor. The olden days where filled with warning signs of man’s horror’s destroying animals, and the habitat. Today we still create films of animals, or creatures wreaking havoc, and destroying our way of life. We have an imagination of the horrors that man can do unto themselves with a destructive blow.

Also what is interesting is there are two versions. The uncut version and the cut version which is the only version available. This blu-ray is the Theatrical version. You can see the full ending online through You tube or other websites. Fans can only hope one day the original full ending will come to Blu-ray, but thankfully Olive Films is still honoring this film in HD which is a great way to experience this odd film.

Screen: 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio; COLOR. Seeing this for the first time on Blu-ray was like seeing it for the first time. If any movie belongs on a blu-ray it is Phase IV. The colors, and artistic twists of imagery lead to a weird, wild exploratory sci-fi feature, with aspects of creature feature horror.


Phase IV is a film that should be looked upon as a warning style film. Mother Nature changed. Man no longer the smartest. It’s fun seeing this as it takes you back to the olden days of creature feature films. Films of mutated insects, bugs run amok. I think Phase IV is more than that. There is a deep style of artistic endeavor that comes across in this story. 

Olive Films has done another great choice for a Blu-ray. It's really great seeing Phase IV in HD. Recommended.


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