Actor spotlight - A. Michael Baldwin
As I sit here, recovering from YET another horrible head cold, I've decided to do something new now for the blog. Every month I'll choose an actor/actress that I feel is worthy to discuss in the brand new Actor Spotlight. A feature that goes over why exactly I feel this actor/actress is awesome and which movies they truly stand out in. Blowing my nose, and drinking OJ I decided to tackle the three sequels to the cult classic Phantasm. Just last week on my birthday I was able to watch the original film on the big screen! As a huge fan of this series (mostly the original) this was one of the coolest ways to spend a birthday. Also the fact it was an original print didn't hurt either. I'm a massive fan of the 70's supernatural horror ride, and decided for this month to have actor A. Michael Baldwin spotlighted for his worthy and amazing roles in three out of the four amazing epic movies. In fact dare I even say it...if it hadn't been for Baldwin's amazing talents he brought forth to these movies, maybe they wouldn't have been nearly as awesome.
In 1976 Michael starred in Don Coscarelli's comedy Kenny & Company. This movie is a truly underrated classic. In fact if it hadn't been for this movie there would have never been a Phantasm! In fact next month I plan on reviewing this film since it's a must to watch around Halloween.
Michael stole the show in this movie even though he was playing the lead's sidekick. Coscarelli knew that Baldwin wasn't like any other child star and decided to reuse him shortly after when he began filming Phantasm.
Baldwin played Mike, the 13 year old boy who's life is turned completely upside down when an evil force takes over his small town. It isn't long before he notices something is wrong at the local cemetery/funeral home and that the undertaker known as The Tall Man is the creature responsible for many of the mysterious deaths that have been taking place lately. With help from his older brother Jody, and uncle Reggie the ice cream man, the trio team up to try and stop this monster before it's too late.
Coscarell truly took a gamble with writing a movie that truly relied on focused on a child being the main character. Had he cast the wrong child I feel this movie could have been an utter and complete disaster. Instead, he struck pay dirt when he cast Baldwin as Michael, who seriously showed off some amazing acting kills at such a young age. One of my favorite moments in the entire movie is when young Mike is walking down the street when he encounters The Tall Man. Here he freezes, watching him in complete and utter fear. Just the expression on Mike's face says it all. Great acting coming from somebody who was just in Jr. high!
Years past after the release of Phantasm and unfortunately Universal decided to back the film's long awaited sequel due to the fact it was the 80's and they were trying to unearth as many villains as possible to make money off. In the decade of sequels and slashers, The Tall Man was given yet another chance to show his stuff. Sadly with a big studio backing the movie they made some very strict rules with Coscarell. The first was to have Michael have a love interest which Conscarell was very much against. The second and most likely the worse of the two was the fact that both Baldwin and Reggie Bannister hadn't really acted much in the time between the original film and now. Telling Coscarell that he had to make a choice he could only pick ONE of the actors to appear in the next installment. Begging the studio, Coscarell tried everything he could, including even having Baldwin come in and read for the part he originally played. When the studio refused to change their mind, Coscarell did the only logical thing possible...he replaced Baldwin due to the fact the sequel took place 8/10 years later. This time he brought in actor James Le Gros. I love Phantasm II. This time around Coscarell got the budget he wanted and made this movie ten times more action packed. Rumor had it that the studio also demanded that the movie wasn't as dream like/surreal as the original and had a more straight forward story line "rolls eyes." Still this movie was packed with amazing action and breath taking special effects. My only main draw back is that Baldwin didn't return to the role he rocked at originally. After much searching I found a photo of Baldwin around the time the sequel was filmed. I don't know about you, but I feel had he returned that movie would have been utter perfection.
A few years later Coscarell made the very wise choice in taking the Phantasm series in a new direction. Wanting to go back to the film's original roots he decided to stray away from the big studio and go more of an independent route. Wanting complete control, Coscarell made the very wise choice in bringing Baldwin back to playing the character of Mike. In fact the opening of Phantasm III is one of my all time favorite openings due to how well they spliced the last film and this one together. It almost seemed as though Baldwin hadn't gone anywhere. Also love the way they take care of the love interest. I feel this was Badlwin's reaction to the big studio making all these demands. Right on dude, right on...
This movie is a cheesy sorta nutty take on the movies. There are zombies, military women, Reggie yet again trying to get laid, and some new creatures thanks to Mr. Tall Man himself. Still, seeing Baldwin back in his old character's shoes really makes the movie. It seems as if he works better beside Reggie, and the film feels more complete. Sadly, Baldwin's character sorta takes a back seat in the movie but has one hell of a great ending which leads to a massive cliff hanger. In fact I even sculpted his character from this movie and showed Michael himself on Facebook. From his reaction and many others, I think I might have to mass produce this little baby...
In 1998 Phantasm fans to treated to the epic final showdown between Reggie, Mike, and The Tall Man. The final chapter in the series, we follow these characters one last time as the audience goes deeper into The Tall Man's history and why exactly he's after Mike. This is after the original my second favorite in the series. I haven't talked to one Phantasm fan yet that hasn't liked this movie. With some truly awesome and breath taking scenes, Mike goes head to head with Mr. Tallman himself once and for all which results in what I believe is one of the best endings ever to a horror series ever. Who doesn't love seeing Reggie and Mike ride away with that epic ending line "It's just the wind..."
Still gives me chills.
Rumors have been flying around since the last movie was released of a fifth. Almost everyone is on board and even a teaser featuring Michael was released. Still nothing solid has come into play and as much as I would love to see the boys back at it again, I sorta feel the ending of the forth movie made everything come full circle and end perfectly.
So I feel that my account off Myspace has been deleted. Not that I've been on that site in years, but it sadly held many of my old convention photos which included when I met Baldwin back in 2008. Mike was a pleasure to meet, he signed my Phantasm shirt (which I somehow can't find) and my DVD. He was awesome to talk to and very sweet. Baldwin has been appearing in more movies lately and is a must have to meet at conventions. A friendly guy who will forever be remembered as Boyyyyyyyy!!!