Phantasm, made when Coscarelli was 25, was done on a small budget with a cast and crew of amateurs. That can be exciting – everyone’s young and feels like they can accomplish anything, and there’s no stuffy executives telling them that it’s a bad idea to, say, have the hero appear to get murdered by zombie dwarves in the final shot. But there’s a downside.
“At that age, we were so enthusiastic and so totally ignorant about safety. And thank God nobody died. We had a massive wind machine, basically an airplane engine on a stand. And we needed a windstorm outside the mausoleum at the end of the movie. It was kind of a cold night, so somebody had run out and bought these cheap mufflers, and given everyone a muffler to wear … ”
We’re going to pause the story right there so you can visualize the giant fan, and imagine people standing near it wearing really long scarves around their necks. If you have ever seen a slapstick comedy or cartoon, you can guess where this is going. “I turned to David Brown, he was the art director. I signaled him to go turn the fan off, and he ran over to it, and the freaking wind machine grabbed his muffler and yanked him. Luckily it was a cheap muffler, and it snapped and threw him back. If it had been, like, a Burberry muffler, he would have just been killed. I probably shouldn’t talk about it, but it’s decades later and Dave’s still alive, healthy, and thriving, so I can tell the story, but man, that was horrible.”
But they all learned their lesson from such a close call … right?