Fantasm Comes Again

  • aka Fantasm 99 (working title only)

In this sequel to the original soft-porn flick Fantasm, cub reporter Libbie (Angela Menzies-Wills) is given the job of writing her newspaper's sex advice column.

A venerable, cynical old hack Harry (Clive Hearne) does a Miss Lonelyhearts on her by telling her about the wide ranging tales of sexual experiences and events that have been sent in to him by the rag's readers.

Naturally as Harry comments on the heartbalm letters, we see the experiences illustrated visually. There's sex in a gymnasium, a threesome at a drive-in theatre, lesbian sex in the hay, sex in a typist test orgy, sex in a swimming pool, sex in the family, sex in the car, sex in a lift - ten bouts of sexual action in all, including sex in a library where a "Silence Please" sign is used to silence a woman perving at erotic Oriental woodcuts, so the male librarian can have his way with her.

Writers:
Exec producers:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Composers:
Editors:

Production Details

Production company: Australian International Film Corporation

Budget: c. A$80,000 (Oxford), entirely with private investors (with distributor Filmways one of the major investors). In his DVD commentary, producer Ginnane says the budget was $75,000 but in a Cinema Papers interview Jan-Feb 1979, he put it at about $85,000. "We felt that if we made the film slightly more expensive and classy, we would get a bigger audience". Distributor Filmways came into the project as an investor because they wanted a bigger slice of the action.

Locations: LA and Melbourne. The linking material involving the story of the two reporters was filmed in Melbourne in the St Kilda Road offices of the lawyer who helped with financing of both Fantasms; pick-ups at the Sandringham drive-in were inserted into another sex scene filmed at a drive-in in LA. The skinflick soft porn sequences featuring American adult movie professionals were shot in various LA locations, including the old Paramount cowboy backlot for Straw Dolls sequence.

Filmed: Christmas 1976/New Year 1977 period, almost one year 'later to the day' to the first film. Producer Ginnane says that the schedule was the same as for the first film - each day a sex scene described in a newspaper reader's letter was filmed, with a break of a day between the first and the last lot of five fantasies (making ten in all). The last sequence in a church in LA was also the last in the shoot.

As well as this 11 day shoot, a second unit consisting of Ginnane, DOP Vince Monton and hard core cast assembled for a day in a San Francisco motel to film XXX close-ups for a harder version of the film. The linking material was filmed over a few days in Melbourne.

Australian distributor: Filmways

Australian release:  26th December, 1977 Dendy Cinema (part of the Filmways-owned chain), Melbourne, in time for the New Year holiday trade.

Rating: R

16 mm - to 35mm for theatrical release (blow-up at Metrocolor, LA)  Colour  

Running time: 94 mins (Oxford)

DVD time: 1'38"31. This is the full cut, excluding some XXX close-ups filmed for insertion if required, but never used and subsequently lost when the laboratory holding them went out of business.

Box office: The film is not listed in Film Victoria report on Australia box office, but the film did not replicate the business of the first film, Fantasm, with the raincoat brigade circuit having faded since the first film came out.

Ginnane notes that even in home town Melbourne, where the first film had run for 12 months in the one cinema, the sequel only managed a four month run. However having two films to package did allow the films to run as a double bill up to 1981-82 in drive-ins and non-first run theatres.

The film also did useful business internationally - the distributors who'd made money with the first film were all keen to get the sequel as fast as they could.

Ginane commented on the commercial results in a Cinema Papers interview, January/February 1979:

The film was ready around May and we took it to Cannes, where it sold almost dollar for dollar for Fantasm. Canada, for example, was a U.S.$10,000 up-front minimum guarantee on both films.

Unfortunately, when we got back from Cannes, there was a glut of sex films on the Australian market. And in the period January to June, censorship had tightened dramatically.

However, I still believe that had we gone out the same time as we had with Fantasm - June 19 - we would have done comparable business. But it wasn't until December that we finally got the green light from the censors. This was a hiatus of six months and it was enough to screw us up.

I think it is fairly common knowledge that Fantasm Comes Again has not been as successful as Fantasm. The film will break even, probably around the end of 1979, and may end up making bank interest on its money.

Opinion

Awards

None known.

Availability

The film has been released on DVD in a number of territories, and in region four has been coupled by Umbrella with the original sexploitation outing Fantasm.

The region four disc came with a commentary by producer Tony Ginnane, as well as a 22'50" 'making of' documentary which looked at the production of both Fantasms, and there was also a rather feeble slideshow, as well as a trailer showing Ginnane standing below the Hollywood sign, promising the sequel from the world capital of movie-making.

The image is fine - a better blow up than most, perhaps thanks to Metrocolor rather than an Australian lab doing the job - and the presence of cigarette burns suggests a release print was used as a source, and the sound track, while cheesy, is also in good shape.

Fantasm Comes Again occupies a much smaller part of the 'making of', perhaps because director Colin Eggleston died before he could contribute to proceedings, but perhaps also as acknowledgment that director Richard Franklin's first film was more amusing, and the sequel a rather dull replica.

Umbrella also released the disc as part of volume two of its Ozploitation series, while region one viewers are well served by the Synapse package.

According to producer Ginnane, it was Synapse that laid down his commentary track, and did the restoration work on the two films. The commentary track on the sequel is sparser than on the first, perhaps indicating Ginnane's relative lack of interest in the result.

In the commentary, Ginnane threatens to unleash a multi-Fantasm epic on the world, cutting together all the best sequences from the two films together to make one long Fantasm megapic, but it's likely having the two films on the one DVD is as far as this will get.

1. Source:

For some reason, writer Ross Dimsey, who had used his own name when writing the script for Fantasm - at least on some prints, felt the need to take the credit for the sequel's screenplay by using the pseudonym Robert Derrière.

The idea of the sequel was to replicate the first film, using the same fantasy structure, with the one significant change being the use of the cynical journalist and his junior female colleague to provide the interlinks, instead of the free-wheeling improv. musings of John Bluthal in the guise of a manic sexology professor in the first show. This resulted in a reduction in the comic tone in the sequel.

Another decision - later described by Ginnane as a mistake - was to write more dialogue. The dialogue was still relatively minimal, compared to the sex action, but where only one of the ten stories in Fantasm had lip sync (the rest were voice over), for the sequel, the decision was made to go with full lip sync dialogue:

In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. One of the beauties of Fantasm was that there wasn't much distraction from what was happening on screen. In Fantasm Comes Again the actors looked good, but they are not Laurence Oliviers and their performances distracted from what was going on).

A further result of the new structure - longer fantasies and longer interlink scenes - was that the sequel ran almost ten minutes longer than the original.

2. Production:

The production also replicated the first film. Cast and crew were much the same as the team assembled via director Richard Franklin's LA contacts for the first film, and the team again stayed at the Oakwoods apartments near Universal for the shoot.

DOP Vince Monton had the usual minimal amount of lighting and grip equipment, and Tony Paterson (who would later cut Mad Max) returned to edit. 

There was a mix of lead LA adult stars and unknowns, with some - such as Uschi Digard - returning, and some new, such as Rick Cassidy, who had impressed Ginnane by starring in Panorama Blue, the only blue film to be shot in 70mm.

This is the first feature film by Colin Eggleston, who directed under the pseudonym Eric Ram. Eggleston began his professional career in television as a script editor and director for Crawfords Productions, and would later go on to direct the first Long Weekend horror feature film (later re-made).

Director of the first Fantasm, Richard Franklin, already leery at being labelled a skinflick director, passed on the job, and instead concentrated on developing his horror picture Patrick.

In the Cinema Papers interview, Jan-Feb 1979, producer Antony Ginnane suggested producers got a much stronger commitment from a first time director who is out to prove himself. I don't believe a director will bust his guts as much on his third or fourth film.

This is a silly belief and he offered an additional, more credible reason:

New directors are also cheaper, and with the films we are making - and they are not Jimmie Blacksmiths - we need to keep costs down.

Ginnane also claimed to be concerned about bringing on new people, but then confessed he was disappointed with the result:

As a director, I think Colin is as competent as Richard in terms of experience, though his sense of humor is quite different - and perhaps it didn't suit the material as well. But I am glad that Colin's gone on to make Long Weekend, which I think is a good film.

Eggleston had a disappointing career as a feature film director - his horror show Long Weekend (which starred his wife Briony Behets) had the distinction of being remade, but at the time it was a major box office flop, and his work on John Lamond's Sky Pirates, another flop, was disappointing. According to Ginnane, he subsequently went to work in Singapore in a production and post production facility.

Eggleston had a trial by fire, shooting some 98 minutes of usable footage in 11 days - with only one day off between filming a sex episode a day - and even though 16mm allowed for more flexibility, he had to deal with a number of difficulties along the way.

The unit lost some invaluable three hours of shooting time doing the 'sex in a lift' segment because the unit arrived at the studio to discover the set wasn't finished and the painting not done. This forced reduced coverage, and the confined space made it even more difficult dealing with the relatively inexperienced performers.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment involved John Holmes, who turned up for the 'sex in a swimming pool' episode - he can be briefly seen as a lifeguard - but who failed to perform.

Holmes had been difficult in the first film, but this time he decided that the pool wasn't heated to his taste, and had a concern that his lengthy credentials might end up being less lengthy in the colder water.

As a result, Bill Margold, of Sunset International - adult film historian, casting agent and performer, who had helped out on the first Fantasm, and was doing similar work on the sequel - had to help out some more.

Margold had already paid Holmes for his role, and so he had to take over the role of the lifeguard and perform in the pool, though he had already featured in a previous "typist joins a sex orgy" segment.

Attempts were made to make him look different, but according to Ginnane, the unit lost a good two hours that day dealing with the issue (no small matter on a shoot where trying to book a convertible or getting a rain-maker for the lesbian "sex in the hay" episode were major events).

Back in Australia, a further difficulty came when filming the interlinks.

Ginnane had noticed Angela Menzies-Wills, who plays the cub reporter, after she had done a nude photo spread for the independent Melbourne newspaper, the Sunday Observer, which had been a big supporter of producer Ginnane in his fight with the censor on Fantasm.

However when it came to the shoot, Menzies-Wills, who had promised to get naked in the film, in the end elected not to and we had some difficulty there. The creative team managed by the end of the shoot to persuade her to take off her jacket and to loosen two or three buttons on her blouse, but that was as far as they got.

For trivia buffs, producer Ginnane can be seen briefly in one of the segments as a monk observing the action - he even takes a head screen credit - and footage from the first Fantasm can be seen at the drive-in, in much the same way as Bogdanovich recycled old Corman footage in Targets. Waste not, want not.

The Sandringham, Melbourne, drive-in, which features in the 'sex in a van in a drive-in' episode, was owned by Mark Josem of Filmways.

Establishers were shot and intercut with scenes filmed at a US drive-in. The Sandringham is no more - the real estate was too valuable - and Mark Josem unfortunately died while returning one year from the exhibitors' convention on the Gold Coast.

Producer Ginnane reveals on the DVD commentary track a couple of personal favourites - Rainbeaux Smith, who'd impressed him in films such as Cheerleaders, and Slumber Party 57 (she killed herself a year or so before the commentary track was recorded, Ginnane notes with sadness), and Serena, who appears in the sex scene in the church at the end, and whom Ginnane describes as a consummate professional with a very long list of adult films on her CV.

3. Release:

Ginnane used CFI lab for processing the 16mm footage, and Metrocolor for the blow-up, with the aim of getting the film to Cannes in May 1977, and then opening the flm in Australia in June-July to duplicate exactly what had been done with the first Fantasm.

But the censor intervened, the domestic release was delayed, and the release was a disappointment.

Ginnane now sounds as if he regrets the relatively lavish budget - the sequel was a third more expensive, even though a humble $25,000 - but it didn't make an amount equivalent to that extra expenditure to justify it ... (and now) ... it's easy to be wise after the event.

One upside for producer Ginnane was that the disappointing "sex in a swimming pool" episode became the featured snap in the Australian one sheeter poster (see posters on this site), with a tag line about cuties blowing the lifeguard's whistle. According to Ginnane, the poster gave him hours of fun when he put it up in the women's toilet in his South Melbourne office.

Ginnane is also fond of the poster's 'presented in Moanaround' gag, which came from another Bill Margold scene, in which he performs oral sex on a number of women.

While Ginnane was unhappy with Angela Menzies-Wills for failing to disrobe, or live up to her Sunday Observer nudie shoot, he was pleased at the help she offered presenting the film to the media, the television and the press (according to Ginnane, she went on to do two or three other films, then married and moved to Queensland and dropped out of the acting business).

Finally Ginnane notes that much confusion arose with the titles of the two films after Don Coscarelli wrote and directed his horror show Phantasm in 1979, a confusion that continues to this day.

4. Censorship:

In the DVD commentary for the film, producer Ginnane says the version on the disc is the longest available, with no shot  footage left out of the cut, except for some hardcore material shot as pickups.

Ginnane, DOP Vince Monton, and a few crew and cast, had - two or three days after the main shoot wrapped - gone up to a motel in San Francisco, using the three rooms to shoot additional close-up footage which could be cut into the film, lifting it from soft X/R to XXX.

They blew the power out, and there was much nervousness, being uncertain of the legal ramifications even in San Francisco in shooting that sort of material: in retrospect, fun and amusing and slightly out there and outlawish.

The first film hadn't taken this precaution, but it turned out that the few distributors interested in a harder version weren't interested in the post-production costs involved (according to Ginnane, it would have been done on 35mm rather than tape).

Additionally, the laboratory where the material - some 9 or 10 minutes - was stored went out of business, and the material was lost, so there's no way a harder version could now be prepared. The material only ever saw the light of day when it was first viewed as rushes at the laboratory, and has never been seen since.

In any case, Ginnane had his own battles with the Australian censor, without worrying about hardening the material, as detailed at the excellent Refused Classification site here.

Ginnane spent six months debating the cut with the Australian censor, resulting in the release date slipping from June 19th to just before Christmas, which resulted in a significant commercial loss.

According to Ginnane, in the interim, the market had softened, there was a glut of softcore material awaiting release, and the R-rated novelty 'naked skin doing naughty things' component had faded. 

The original 98'03" (2,682.60) meter cut (the DVD runs 98'31") was edited down to 95'32" (2,614.00) to get past the censor, though some might suggest that further cutting might have helped the film's commercial prospects.

According to Refused Classification, when the film was released in the early 1980s on VHS by Video Classics, it featured the same censored theatrical print, running some 89-90 minutes (the 4% 24-25fps differential helps explain different timings). When it was re-released in 1990 on the Movie Greats label, it ran 89'09".

Again according to Refused Classification, an X-rated version of the show was passed by the censor in August 1984, but it is unlikely this version was ever given a commercial release.

In his commentary track, producer Ginnane claims that the full, uncut version was never released until it came out on DVD.

In the DVD commentary, Ginnane reminds listeners censorship was so restrictive, that - with the possible exception of South Africa - Australia was the most restrictive and prohibited film-viewing country in the world (the same could be said of print, books, art and television).

Perhaps the most shocking outcome with the sequel was that Queensland didn't ban it. They had banned the first film, and that provided Fantasm with publicity gold, mined elsewhere in the country.

This time a cut version played Queensland, and at the federal level, the cut ended up allowing through about the same amount of explicitness - though again the censors took an attitude to sex in water, and trimmed about a minute and a half from The Kiss of Life fantasy, which featured casting agent and US adult movie guru and historian Bill Margold (who had also helped with the casting and acting of the first film).

"I don't what the censors had against underwater ballet", Ginnane moans on the DVD commentary, noting that bootleg versions and previous VHS releases were bereft of the Margold underwater activity.

Even though censorship attempted to make something of a comeback in the tussle over the release of Fantasm Comes Again - and producer Ginnane attempted to push the window a little further, the R certificate had worked its magic, the market had spoken, and the sequel was left a little like a beached whale. 

By the time Fantasm Comes Again came out the wonder and the excitement of seeing nudity and sexual activity on Australian screens (had gone) ...

They are time capsules these films so I think they have educational value apart from sort of you know fun value … They're still amusing, people find some of the gags in a way particularly the first film some of the gags were almost the equivalent of silent movie gags ...

5. Oxford and irony:

For anyone interested in the ironies associated with the Australian film revival, Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper's ground-breaking Oxford Australian Film 1900-1977 features Fantasm Comes Again as the very last work in its list of Australian films (it was film 488 in Pike and Cooper's detailed, epic survey, still the most reliable reference work available).

The very first film featured by Pike and Cooper was the now largely lost combination of slides and motion picture footage, presented in 1900 by the Salvation Army as Soldiers of the Cross, and detailed by the NFSA here.

No doubt Joseph Perry and his sons would be rolling in their graves to think that their Christian work formed bookends with Antony I. Ginnane's soft core flick in this milestone survey.