Film (1973). Alced/Paramount/PBR Productions. Directed by Saul Bass, starring Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick, Michael Murphy. Screenplay Mayo Simon. 91 minutes, cut to 84 minutes. Colour.
A battle of wits takes place between, on the one hand, a fanatical Scientist and two others living in a desert-based experimental dome and, on the other, an ant species which has acquired Intelligence. The script substitutes mysticism for science and tries too hard to emulate 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – as in its ending, where the two surviving human protagonists undergo a transcendental transformation. Originally there was also in the finale a 2001-like montage of surrealistic images showing a fantastic Evolutionary upheaval, but this was cut by the studio after the initial release.
Phase IV was Bass's directorial debut; he had previously been known as the designer of such striking movie title sequences as those for Psycho (1960) and Walk on the Wild Side (1962). While he is a master of his craft visually, his handling of actors is unsatisfactory and he seems to have little feeling for sf. This conceptually silly melodrama is an interesting failure, its attraction lying in the superb insect photography by Ken Middleham rather than in any sf content. The novelization is Phase IV (1973) by Barry N Malzberg. [JB/PN]
see also: Monster Movies.
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