Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge

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Synopsis

With numerous interpretations of Gaston Leroux’s classic novel The Phantom of the Opera having been turned out over the years, it was only a matter of time before the slasher genre decided to take a stab at the tale – step forward 1989’s Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge!

High school sweethearts Eric Matthews and Melody Austin are so in love, but their youthful romance is cut tragically short when Eric apparently dies in a fire that engulfs his family home. One year later and Melody is trying to move on with her life, taking up a job at the newly built Midwood Mall along with her friends. But the mall, which stands on the very site of Eric’s former home, has an uninvited guest – a shadowy, scarred figure which haunts its airducts and subterranean passageways, hellbent on exacting vengeance on the mall’s crooked developers.

Directed by Richard Friedman (Scared StiffDoom Asylum), and featuring star turns from Pauly Shore and Morgan Fairchild, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge swoops onto Blu-ray™ in an extras-packed edition which proves that Arrow Video’s love for ’80s slasher fare never dies!

Picture 8/10

Arrow Video has conducted a new 2K restoration from a 35mm interpositive for Richard Friedman’s Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, presenting the on Blu-ray in a new Limited Edition two-disc set. The film is presented in its aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on the first dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation. This Limited Edition also presents on the second dual-layer disc (exclusive to this edition) two alternate cuts, a reassembled TV version presented open matte in the aspect ratio of around 1.33:1, and a “Phan” Cut, piecing together everything from the TV and theatrical cuts, presented in the ratio of 1.85:1. Both versions use the new restoration as a base and insert video/standard-definition footage of material exclusive to the TV cut. Both versions have also been given 1080p/24hz high-def encodes.

Arrow, yet again, go all out in their restoration efforts for a film that I’m sure would be overlooked by just about every label on the planet, giving a film that I’m positive most people last saw on VHS a new lot on life (to my surprise, it did receive a small theatrical release). The film is incredibly grainy, far grainier than I was anticipating, but Arrow's encode does an incredible job with it, keeping it clean and natural looking throughout, even during the darker portions. Fine object detail can be limited because of the source, but the image never comes off soft or fuzzy. Colours look sharp, especially those 80's mall neons, and black levels are rich, though some of the darker moments in the mall setting's duct work can be hard to see. The restoration work has also been incredibly thorough, only a few small blemishes popping up.

The alternate versions found on the second disc use the new restoration as the base, so a majority of their presentations are sharp as well. For the material exclusive to the TV version Arrow appears to have only had access to video material, so the inserts stick out. This is what it is, though, and I doubt many will have an issue with it. My understanding (based on the supplements here) is a lot of fans discovered the film through the TV version, so I’m sure they’ll just be happy it’s here.

In all, Arrow pulls off another impressive restoration, devoting as much love and care to this obscure film that one would usually expect to be reserved for, well, just about anything else.

Audio 7/10

The PCM 2-channel stereo soundtrack sounds fine. Dialogue is clear and the music, particularly the Vandals’ title track, shows wide range and excellent fidelity. Nothing about the mix sticks out otherwise, the ends results sounding no better than any stereo presentation for a broadcast from the 90’s.

Extras 9/10

I’d never heard of this film before Arrow’s announcement, and I will confess that I thought this was some sort of sequel based on the title. For those not aware, it’s not a sequel to anything. Comically, that very topic comes up repeatedly throughout the features in Arrow’s nicely stacked special edition, and it's just one of the many reasons the film fell into obscurity.

The release first features three audio commentaries, all of which are presented alongside the original/theatrical version of the film on the first disc. One of the commentary tracks features audio excerpts from interviews that producer Michael Felsher conducted with the film’s composer, Stacy Widelitz, and then associate producer Robert J. Koster. It’s not a screen-specific commentary and only runs a little over 83-minutes of the film’s 90-minute runtime, and I don’t believe they’re watching the film at all. It has also been broken down into two sections, with Widelitz taking up the first half and Koster popping in at around the 41-minute point, where the cobra comes up through a toilet and bites a guy in the junk (no part of that sentence is a typo). Of the tracks this did the least for me admittedly, though it could be something fans of the film will enjoy. The two talk a little about how they got into their respective fields, with Koster even talking about some of the other work he did for Fries Entertainment, which sounds to have been a rather wild company based on comments here and elsewhere. Widelitz is asked about coming up with the score, though it sounds like he ultimately didn’t work much with the director and just delivered what the producers asked of him. At the very least, Widelitz does talk a little about his thought process behind a few scenes. Koster remembers quite a bit, surprisingly, even recalling members of the stunt and the effects crews, impressed with what they pulled off with the limited budget.

It's not a bad couple of interviews to be fair, I just didn’t get all that much out of the track, though this was the last one I did listen to and my reaction could just come down to fatigue. I did enjoy Felsher’s first track, where he is paired with director Richard Friedman. With a good sense of humour Friedman recalls the production, from when he was called on to replace another director to the various issues that arose during production, like when the mall was inadvertently flooded after they set off the sprinklers (the story comes up many times throughout the features). What I found sort of interesting is that Friedman wasn’t aware of who he had cast in the film, outside of Pauly Shore, and Felsher points out a number of staple genre-picture actors as they appear (along with Dos Equis' "The Most Interesting Man in the World"), with Friedman coming off a bit surprised at the moment or recounting his surprise when he first found out. Throughout he’s also stunned by Arrow’s restoration, and comments on how he thinks it helps the film, if only a little bit; when it's over he says it's better than he remembers, but doesn't say it's "good."

It’s a fun track, and I also enjoyed the next one, which features a conversation between disc producer Ewan Cant and author Amanda Reyes. Reyes is a die-hard fan of the film, having discovered it on VHS way back in the day. While she gushes about what she loves about the film at various points, she has also managed to dig up some interesting content around the film and its marketing (some of which appears in an included gallery), even reading some of the very negative reviews written for it. The conversation between the two then veers on to other subjects, including other adaptations of the “Phantom of the Opera” story (including abandoned projects) and the appeal of the story, along with the other versions of the film and the original script, and Reyes even goes on to explain to the British Cant how malls played into American culture in the 80s and 90s. I admit the film did very little for me, but I got a big kick out of the passion the two show for it, and I ultimately enjoyed their track because of that.

The first disc also features a number of video features. There’s the 42-minute making-of documentary, Shop Till You Drop, featuring Friedman, screenwriters Scott J. Schneid and Tony Michelman, filmmaker Tony Kayden (who was originally signed on to direct), make-up effects artist Matthew Mungle, and actors Derek Rydell (Eric) and Gregory Scott Cummins (the mall security guard). While the documentary covers the production of the film in a very thorough manner, summarizing comments made throughout all of the commentary tracks, I found the pre-production stage of the project to be the most fascinating, especially the stories around the numerous script revisions, Schneid and Michelman miffed at how far away the finished film is from their original idea.

There’s some bitterness in there, even from Kayden who didn’t even end up directing the film, but amusingly the next feature, an interview with former Vandals band member Joe Escalante recounting how the group came to record the song, seems a bit more chipper. He covers where the band was at during that period, which found them crossing into film with Phantom of the Mall and Penelope Spheeris’ two films Suburbia and Dudes, the latter being a surprise for Escalante as Spheeris fired them from Suburbia. He still seems amused by the song and looks back on the experience with pleasure. His discussion runs around 13-minutes.

There are then a collection of deleted and alternate scenes, which all come from the TV cut. Running 7-minutes total, most of the scenes are quick inserts, a couple being around Pauly Shore’s Buzz and his crush on Kimber Sisson’s Susie. Probably the big change is the opening, which shows right off what happened to Eric, which is only finally explained through flashbacks a good way into the original version of the film.

These scenes are then incorporated into the two alternate versions of the film presented on the second dual-layer disc (exclusive to this edition): the TV Cut and the longer “Phan” Cut. The TV Cut loses all of the gore, many of the kills shortened significantly, the inserted footage appearing to have been added to pad out the running time. The “Phan” Cut inserts that cut footage into the original version of the film, keeping all of the gore. In cases where a scene is an alternate version of a scene in the finished film, the “Phan” Cut seems to choose the original film version, as shown with the film’s ending, the TV Cut altering things a bit. The Cant/Reyes commentary track suggested that many fans discovered the film through TV airings, so Arrow’s inclusion of these cuts may be a big draw, and they’ve been nicely put together: while the alternate footage is only available from a video source, the new restoration is used for the base of the rest of the film. Arrow has even gone as far as opening the matte up to 1.33:1 for the TV Cut. The “Phan” Cut is presented in matted widescreen.

There is no other material on the second disc, but the first disc finishes off with a theatrical trailer and a slightly longer international trailer. There is also a gallery featuring production photos, posters, VHS art (which inspired the back cover for their Limited-Edition sleeve) and some of the newspaper clippings Reyes mentions in her commentary. Arrow even includes BD-ROM content in the form of a PDF file holding 24-pages’ worth of storyboards, along with another PDF featuring a scan of the original script (a quick scan does indeed show it's very different from the finished film). Arrow has also done their usual job with their Limited-Edition packaging, presenting the two-discs in one of their Blu-ray cases that also houses postcard recreations of lobby cards for the film. The case is then held in a sturdy cardboard sleeve alongside a double-sided poster, featuring the (awful) original poster art on one side and Arrow’s new art on the other, and then a 58-page booklet. The booklet first features a rather fun appreciation of the film by Daniel R. Budnik—who first relates a story around his attendance of a mall opening as a boy—that is then followed by a short essay by Reyes, where she expands on her commentary comments around malls and their impact on American culture in the 80s, covering their rise and slow decline. The rest of the booklet features production notes that I assume were given to the press at the time, along with a collection of photos. As usual, Arrow packs in some great content

And that about covers it. The supplements are, in the end, about what you would expect from Arrow, but it still impresses me how much love and work they put into releases for films like this, knowing their target audience and giving them what they want. They’ve really managed to put together a wonderful collection of material.

Closing

From pulling together a sharp looking presentation and offering alternate cuts for the film, to gathering everyone together that they could to talk about it, this edition is aimed for the fans and Arrow has delivered an impressive package for them. An affectionately put together edition that fans should be thrilled to pick up.

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Directed by: Richard Friedman
Year: 1989
Time: 96 | 91 | 89 min.
 
Series: Arrow Video
Release Date: November 23 2021
MSRP: $49.95
 
Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
English 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B/C
 
 Brand new 2K restoration of the TV Cut with Standard Definition inserts for the footage unique to this version (89 mins)   Integral Fan Cut combining footage from both the Original Theatrical and TV Cuts for the ultimate Phantom of the Mall experience! (96 mins)   Brand new audio commentary with director Richard Friedman, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher   Brand new audio commentary with disc producer Ewan Cant and film historian/author Amanda Reyes   Shop Til’ You Drop!: The Making of Phantom of the Mall – brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Friedman, screenwriters Scott Schneid and Tony Michelman, actors Derek Rydall and Gregory Scott Cummins, filmmaker Tony Kayden and special make-up effects creator Matthew Mungle   The Vandals Go to the Mall - an interview with Joe Escalante of The Vandals on the creation of the Phantom of the Mall theme song   Alternate and Deleted Scenes from the TV Cut   Domestic Trailers   International Trailers   Image Gallery   Scott Schneid and Tony Michelman's original script and associated special effects storyboards by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. [BD-ROM Content]   60-page fully-illustrated perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Daniel Budnik and Amanda Reyes   Large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned   Six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions