Inspired by HG Wells’ “The Empire of the Ants”, cinema legend Saul Bass shot his only feature film with “Phase IV” in 1974, but that’s not the only reason why it enjoys cult status. Now the sci-fi classic is appearing in a revised version for the first time.
Saul Bass was already considered a dazzling Hollywood great in the 50s and 60s, who always worked in the background and nevertheless made a significant contribution to legendary cinema milestones such as “West Side Story’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Invisible Third’, as well as later ‘GoodFellas’ and ‘Casino’, grabbed their audience from the first second. Because as a graphic designer, Bass has worked with some of the greatest filmmakers ever to launch their stories with the perfect title sequence. He, on the other hand, only directed three short films and even directed only one feature film, which has always been celebrated as a cult by science fiction enthusiasts: “Phase IV”.
Nevertheless: Even after almost 50 years, the mix of sci-fi dystopia and animal horror film has never been given the honor that genre fans generally give it. With the upcoming new edition in home cinema, the film should not only receive more attention for the first time in a long time but also possibly win over one or the other fan – because it has it all:
From July 22, 2022, “Phase IV” will be available on Blu-ray for the very first time. Known for their carefully curated catalog of genre films, distributor Capelight Pictures once again puts an extra dose of love into their reinterpretation of a classic and gives one to Saul Bass’s only screen adventure Limited Collector’s Edition including Blu-ray, DVD, and the bonus disc, which contains the film in the painstakingly restored new version for the first time, in which the film shines in the original Technicolor colors in new, old splendor. Thanks to the drawn old-school cover motif, the edition is also a real eye-catcher on the shelf.
This is “Phase IV”
dr Ernest Hubbs (Nigel Davenport) and James Lesko (Michael Murphy) examine the ants that live there in their laboratory in the middle of the Arizona desert landscape and come across a discovery that is as puzzling as it is devastating: Because the crawling animals seem to develop new intelligence as a result of a cosmic event.
The six-legged form entirely new structures and attack their natural enemies with unusual aggressiveness. When even the first humans fell victim to the desert ants, the scientists finally realized: If they don’t quickly find a way to get rid of the murderous insects, the end of the world as we know it could be imminent…
After the trade press received mixed reviews for “Phase IV” when it was released in cinemas, the film suddenly became a public favorite. He inspired numerous filmmakers such as Nicolas Goldbart (“Phase 7”) and Panos Cosmatos (“Mandy”) and achieved cult status in the late 80s at the latest when he was featured in one of the early episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.
And indeed, one look at the trailer above is enough to understand why “Phase IV” is still revered today. Bass’ skillful play with the camera, editing, production design, and special effects was not only ahead of its time at the time, but also stands the test of time with flying colors – as a uniquely staged science fiction horror adventure that, even after almost half a century, still has nothing has lost its fascination.