I was 23 years old when I met Mr. Angus Scrimm.
In May of 2002, this Australian found himself in Los Angeles, recording audio commentaries for a pair of Anchor Bay horror DVDs and hawking screenplays far before they were ready for primetime. Back then, a pair of balls and lack of common sense led to many an adventure – and this was one of them, thank god.
I knew I might be having lunch with Angus and Don Coscarelli depending on how everyone’s timing lined up so I was cool if it didn’t pan out. But it was difficult not to think of what I would say if it did. I could never understand why fans at conventions and on the internet would keep asking the same old questions. I had a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to ask if the opportunity arose. Original stuff!
“So Angus, the tall man turns out to be either an alien, a demon, or a cyborg – which one would be a mistake?” “Hey Don, what do you think of this? PHANTASM III is the least favorite of fans, but it seemed to me it was the one you were having the most fun with.”
So you can imagine my surprise when I met them and all my self-professed groundbreaking questions vanished into the nether and I ended up making the most lame-ball, over-stated questions and comments ever.
Don I maybe managed to play it cool with, because we had already corresponded over email for a few years and I had slipped in a few of my pet qs every now and then, and had also gotten a feel for what it was like just casually chatting with the guy.
Therefore Angus, who I had never spoken with before, bore the brunt of my insta-transformation into slack-jawed fanboy.
“So what was the deal with your giant white wig in SUBSPECIES?” I infinitely slapped myself after for that and many other comments and questions. But Angus didn’t shoot me down, he responded smoothly, with patience, kindness and humor.
I was already acclimated with film personalities – I could treat them like anyone else. I had peeked behind the curtain and lived to tell the tales. But suddenly with this PHANTASM pair, there was some weird loophole I didn’t foresee.
After lunch was over and I was both excited and humbled about what had just transpired, I figured it out. I realized there is no such thing as dumb questions and dumb fanboys. Most of us are an intelligent, thoughtful lot, some of us more or less in the know than others. And in the presence of the greats we’re all capable of our brains turning to mush, our words to silly string.
We didn’t have Elvis or The Beatles. We had DAWN OF THE DEAD, STAR WARS and PHANTASM. These movies were our music.
Here’s my most treasured Phantasm Secret.
While we were ordering lunch the waiter explained to Angus they didn’t have what he was asking for.
For the briefest moment he shot a withering glance.
That withering glance was totally the Tall Man.
Then he ordered something else with a most friendly manner.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or gasp after.
To this day I have no idea if he was hamming it up or if he was genuinely displeased.
But it showed me he was the Tall Man.
As above and beyond kind as he was, which you read all about, he could turn it on anytime he wanted if he chose to.
He just didn’t choose to most the time.
I’ve kept that treasured personal moment and its mystery to myself for 14 years. Until this blog post.
Valuing the time and personal space of these PHANTASM guys, I never contacted them incessantly. But the handful of times Angus and I corresponded over the years he was always a delight, always eloquent in the ways he put words together, and always supportive of my harebrained schemes.
He was a fan of people doing things and not sitting idly.
That is possibly the secret to his 89 grand years of life.
He walked the walk, my friends.
Thanks Angus. You were an inspiration to us all.
When Avco Embassy Pictures created the PHANTASM poster for its 1979 theatrical release it didn’t pop out as iconic as it was – there were a few different concepts floated. Supposedly, one poster concept was the Tall Man riding his horse and carriage, which was seen in the film – except in this case it wasn’t even on Earth but the hellish terrain of the rocky red planet.
True? False? Who cares. It sounds cool.
This week I decided to put together a rudimentary visualization on what the poster might have looked like. Or how I would have liked it to look, at least. Angus Scrimm played the villain, but to all of us – including the other cast – he was the star.