Phase 4 By Saul Bass Reviewed!

Glib Reviews Of Old Movies

Everything Is Coming Up Zardoz! Day 5

- Directed by Saul Bass

Another 70’s cult classic that I had never seen before, despite bringing the dvd home 2 or 3 times over the years I worked at the video store. One of those movies that I just kept putting off, never in the mood for it. That’s part of my raison d’être in getting back into blogging more often; as much as it is to get me writing every day, it is also to catch up on movies and TV that I have been procrastinating over. I plan to move my TV and comic book reviews from my facebook groups to my blog, more posts, wider audience, they say. So why post only on FB, where it is mostly just my friends seeing it?

Anyway, onto the movie.... Legendary Movie Title Designer Saul Bass (from Vertigo to Goodfellas, so many insanely great title sequences, by Bass) only made one movie. It’s a very unique picture, wherein the titles actually appear as part of the structure of the film, throughout: Phase 1, Phase, 2, and 3, of course 4, is the final title. 

The story is a simple and oft used sci-fi premise done in a very innovative fashion. A pretty mad (in a few senses of the word) scientist (Nigel Davenport) with the great cinematic name Dr. Ernest D. Hubbs, and math geek (Michael Murphy) James Lesko set up a geodesic dome in the desert somewhere in an American desert to study some recently very aggressive and apparently quickly evolving ants, that have destroyed a resort community. The pair run lots of fancy tests, warn the last few homesteaders in town away, run more tests. The giant computers, printers, screens, and plotters were cutting edge at the time, and now seem quaint and groovy retro.

A huge portion of the movie focusses on the ants, all the different kinds, and what they are doing. Some great nature photography on display in this film. The ants, without any human sentience, develop their own sentience, out foxing the pair of scientists at every turn. The ants take out the townies who wouldn’t leave, except of course the high school aged pretty girl. She bunks with the scientists, as Lesko figures out how to communicate with the ants, through advanced mathematics. The ants meanwhile send in some ninjas to spook everyone, and it works. Eventually the ants construct mirrored ant hills somehow (math?) and try to fry out the invading humans.

The way the characters interact is pretty awkward at times, which gives it some reality. The ants are busy adapting and changing to their own ends, while the humans bicker and squander time. Eventually there is Phase 4, which was almost what I was expecting to happen, but done with a bit of a trippy twist that raises the ending out of psychedelic cliche into some profundity. 

Thoughtful interesting picture, with very little ‘action’ but lots and lots of tension. My tiny (for modern times) 32 inch tv screen did not, I think do the film justice. I would love to see a nice remastered print of this on a big screen someday. Enjoyable low budget, but smartly achieved sci fi cinema!

8.548 Different kinds of Ant species working in harmony to defeat Pomposity outta 10


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