The cult science-fiction film Phase IV, directed by Saul Bass, has joined the growing catalogue of limited edition Blu-Ray and DVD releases from 101 Films, one of the UK’s fastest growing independent entertainment labels.
In a sealed lab in the Arizona desert, scientists James Lesko (Michael Murphy, Manhattan) and Dr. Ernest Hubbs (Nigel Davenport, A Man for All Seasons), accompanied by Kendra Eldrige (Lynne Frederick, Henry VIII and His Six Wives), search for answers to an evolutionary shift in the ant population; the development of a collective intelligence and cross-species hive mentality.
With humanity under threat, the scientists are faced with the choice of either communicating with, or eradicating their antagonists…
The release – part of the company’s Black Label range, which also includes releases of films such as Howard the Duck and Screamers seems particularly apt, centring as it does on beleaguered scientists besieged by a tiny and insidious biological threat.
Produced by Alced Productions and Paramount Pictures, Phase IV was the only feature film directed by legendary Saul Bass (1920-1996) – title designer, sequence stylist, poster artist (who, bizarrely, was not allowed to design the poster for his own film) – an all-around 20th century graphic design icon, who also made several short films.
Bass created some of the most compelling images of American postwar visual culture who, having extended the remit of graphic design to include film titles, went on to transform the genre. His best-known works include a series of unforgettable posters and title sequences for films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder.
He also created some of the most famous logos and corporate identity campaigns of the century, including those for major companies such as AT&T, Quaker Oats, United Airlines and Minolta.
His wife and collaborator, Elaine, joined the Bass office in the late 1950s. Together they created an impressive series of award-winning short films, including the Oscar-winning Why Man Creates, as well as an equally impressive series of film titles, ranging from Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus in the early 1960s to Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear and Casino in the 1990s.
While Phase IV was not a success on its original box office release, the film has since achieved cult status and influenced the work of several other film makers, helped by a screening as part of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It’s certainly a film that has stuck in my memory since first seeing it way back in university days.
It is also the first film to depict a geometric crop circle, in this case, created by super-intelligent ants. (The film predates by two years the first modern reports of crop circles in the United Kingdom).
This release from 101 Films includes the film’s original ending, a spectacular, surreal montage showing what life would be like on a ‘new’ Earth, that this was cut by the distributor but recently restored in a new print that has been shown at independent cinemas in recent years.
Offered in special packaging, also included are a host of additional extras, including a bonus disc featuring the finest of the director’s short films, and a booklet with newly-commissioned writing on the history of ‘killer bug’ movies and the career of Saul Bass.
• Phase IV from 101 Films is available here on Blu-Ray and DVD from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) – and the 45th Anniversary edition is also available on Amazon Prime
• If you’re a fan of the work of Saul Bass, check out Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, released in 2011. Designed by Saul Bass’s daughter Jennifer and written by distinguished design historian Pat Kirkham, who knew Saul Bass, this book contains more than 1400 illustrations, many from the Bass archive and never published before, providing an in-depth account of one of the leading graphic artists of the 20th century