A list of Edgar Wright's favorite 1000 Movies per his list on Mubi on July 27th, 2016.
Adapt or die.
Arizona ants mock the food chain on their way to a desert lab to get two scientists and a woman.
I was pretty curious as to the body of work the cinematographer of Phase IV is known for outside of this project, so I wanted to look him up. To show my level of maturity and let you know that you should take my opinions and observations with a grain of salt, I couldn't do anything but giggle at his name - Dick Bush. Although, wildlife photographer Ken Middleham was responsible for a majority of what we see in the film--the closeup photography of the ants. Normally I love this sort of stuff in nature documentaries, but the main difference here is that it's used in a film without a narrator giving tons of facts about the creatures we're watching.…
The story about an interspecies conflict for global conquest between man and ant is not exactly the sort of stuff I expected from famed film credits designer Saul Bass. A cool crime caper is more what I had in mind when I think of his style, and yet here’s Phase IV coming right out of left field. His only work as a director is a weird sci-fi/horror/war pastiche that deemphasizes the human drama while favoring the insects’ point of view, resulting in a refreshing take on the usual B-movie creature feature trope. Ants take center stage whereas the main actors are no more than tired caricatures. In contrast to the mindless, hulking beasts from the Atomic Age cautionary tale Them!,…
"We had quite a severe ant problem at the vineyard this year. I had Art Garfunkel come by with his compressor, and we created a total vacuum outside the house, and we blew the ants out the front door. But I'm sure you high-tech NASA people could care less about our resort-town ways."
Phase IV answers the ultimate cinematic question, what would happen if you mixed 2001: A Space Odyssey with Them!. This film would be the result. Though it is admittedly nowhere near as good as either of those seminal sci-fi works, it is a surprisingly well made, intelligent killer ant film, something which I don't get to say near often enough.
After a cosmic occurrence which prophets say will be the end of the world, humanity is surprised to find that nothing has changed the next day, at least that they can see. Deep within the acrid desert of the American Southwest an army is being forged. Ants from disparate species are joining forces and constructing massive towers, and soon they…
Not a typical science fiction or ecological thriller, Saul Bass's directorial outing, "Phase IV," is a low-key piece of work that is as remarkable for its style as it is anything else. With its closeup cinematography, lack of dialogue, and focus on the real power of nature, the film is a genre oddity. It may not be for everyone, but it is strangely compelling.
Feeling like a combination nature documentary, experimental science fiction film, and 1970s thriller, "Phase IV" is built around the attempts of two scientists to stave off an invasion from ants. The ants are not imbued with radioactive powers or other genre pretensions, they are simply dangerous in their massive, collective amounts.
The standard genre plotting gives…
I have seen the light, the light of Saul Bass and the directing career that never was. What evil had conspired in the universe to disown a man's visionary style into just one feature film? Douglas Trumbull at least got two! Only one from Bass? I bring up Trumbull because his Silent Running just about makes the perfect double-bill night with Phase IV which, funnily enough, is a film that could justifiably be considered the 2001 of killer animals movies. There's no looking at ants the same way again after watching Phase IV.
In a Arizona valley, ants begin to behave strange. The population leaves scared and two scientists are brought in to develope a spray to get rid of the aggressive creatures.
"Ordinary ants of different species were doing things ants don't do."
I've always thought that Phase IV was a killer ants movie, it is but not in the way you are used to. No clichés and no gruesome creature attacks, this is something completely different. Phase IV is a fantastic piece of sci-fi horror that looks (and sounds) amazing, I've never seen anything like it before. It's a real shame that Saul Bass never directed any more full-length features! I'll definitely revisit this one really soon! Recommended.
Saul Bass' only directorial effort is a mesmerizing and intriguing film. At times it is equally b-movie and arthouse cinema within the same breath. The coldness with which Bass deals with his human protagonists while at the same time presenting the ants with so much drama and emotion is, honestly, brilliant (and as I understand it, a lot of that credit goes to Ken Middleham who shot those sequences).
If you watch the movie, though, do yourself a favor and hunt down the original ending. You can see it on YouTube in less than great quality, but it is absolutely an essential part of this film and creates a far better ending and total experience. I'm a bit shocked and disappointed that this still hasn't been released with it.
Oddly fitting double feature with Fantastic Planet.
The seventies had the coolest scifi aesthetic.
The "lost" ending is truly bizarre - wish they'd left it alone. Pass the Nippon.
Psychotronic masterpiece by Saul Bass. Made my skin crawl. Terrifying and relentlessly interesting. Michael Murphy is great as always.
“It’s easy to see why Phase IV was given the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, but I feel like that brand of mockery is selling its other merits a bit short. Visually bizarre, technically impressive, tonally unnerving, and backed by a wickedly cool soundtrack of droning synths (recently made available 40 years late by Waxwork Records), Phase IV is a thoroughly strange film.”
Ants and other insects don't really give me the heebie-jeebies, but men with unclipped fingernails and toenails do, so I was on the ants' side.
Saul Bass, the man who created memorable title sequences for Alfred Hitchcock's 60's output among others, directs an unsurprisingly visually striking hard SF film that finds two scientists stationed in the desert, trying to decipher the behavior of a murderous ant hive that appears to behave intelligently. Close-up photography of the ants is simply superb, and combined with the trippy aural design, gives the little critters an undeniably otherworldly look. It’s narrative never really generates any significant level of suspense, spending much of the time following scientific experiments and dialogue theorizing what's going on, but it’s a film that demands you groove to the cold weirdness of its tone rather than respond to any concrete thrills or sense of adventure.…
Edgar Wright's 1000 Favorite Movies via MUBI.