Coscarelli, Don 1954-
COSCARELLI, Don 1954-
PERSONAL: Born February 17, 1954, in Tripoli, Libya; immigrated to United States, 1955; son of Donald Anthony and Kate Mae (Tyer) Coscarelli; married Shelley Kay Eskow, September 5, 1982; children: Andrew, Chloe.
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, 2450 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA, 90404.
CAREER: Film director, writer, producer, and editor.
MEMBER: Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: USA Film Festival Award, 1975, for Jim the World's Greatest; Avoriaz Festival Jury prize, Festival du Cinema Fantastique, 1980, for Phantasm; Best Independent Film Award, Fangoria magazine, c. 1994, for Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead.
(And director, with Craig Mitchell, and producer, editor, and cinematographer) Jim the World's Greatest, Universal Pictures, 1976,
(And director, cinematographer, and editor) Kenny & Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 1976.
(And director, producer, cinematographer, and editor) Phantasm, Avco Embassy Film, 1978.
(With Paul Pepperman; and director and uncredited producer) The Beastmaster, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 1982.
(And director) Phantasm II, Spacegate Corporation, 1988.
(And director and editor) Survival Quest, Starway International, 1989.
(And director and producer) Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, Starway International, 1994.
(And director and producer) Phantasm IV: Oblivion, Silver Sphere Corporation, 1998.
(And director and producer) Bubba Ho-tep (based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale), Vitagraph Films, 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A movie about time travel.
SIDELIGHTS: Don Coscarelli was born in North Africa, but his family moved to southern California when he was only a year old. It was there that he became enamored with movie making and started filming short films with his childhood friends in Long Beach, California. In 1976 he sold his independently made film, Jim the World's Greatest, which he wrote and co-directed with friend Craig Mitchell, to Universal Pictures. As a result, he became the youngest director to have a feature film distributed by a major Hollywood studio. That same year, his second film, Kenny & Company, which is about several days in the life of a typical twelve-year-old boy, was released by Twentieth Century-Fox.
Although considered a low-budget, B-movie writer and director, Coscarelli attained worldwide critical and box-office success in 1979 with his horror film Phantasm, which tells the story of young boys who battle the "Tall Man," a mysterious grave robber and killer. Coscarelli would go on over the next two decades to write and direct several sequels to the cult classic, including 1998's Phantasm IV: Oblivion. Coscarelli told Todd Doogan in an interview for DigitalBits.com that he got the idea for the original movie from a dream he had as a teenager. The filmmaker noted that "what I can remember had mainly to do with my fleeing down endlessly long marble corridors pursued by a chrome sphere intent on penetrating my skull with a wicked needle. There was a quite futuristic 'sphere dispenser' out of which the orbs would emerge and begin chase. As far as I can remember, the spheres never caught up with me. They still haven't."
One of Coscarelli's most successful movies is The Beastmaster, which led to two sequels and a television series based on Coscarelli's characters. The Beastmaster has remained a popular cult film and was named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the most watched films of all time on cable television. The story is about a martial arts warrior who can communicate with animals, including his two amazingly cooperative ferrets. The overall plot revolves around the warrior seeking revenge on the evil priest who killed his father.
Coscarelli also wrote and directed the oddball, low-budget film Bubba Ho-tep. Based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale and set in a Texas nursing home, the film features an elderly Elvis Presley who ends up in the nursing home years after having switched places with an Elvis impersonator. The impersonator ended up performing as the real Elvis while the authentic singing idol spent his time performing as an Elvis impersonator. Of course, it is the impersonator who died and not the real Elvis. In the movie, Elvis teams up with "Jack Kennedy"—the former president of the United States whose skin has been dyed black to hide his true identity—to fight off a Texas mummy who is sucking the souls out of the nursing home residents.
Many reviewers held opinions of the movie similar to those of Elvis Mitchell, who wrote in the New York Times that Bubba Ho-tep "is a punch line in search of a setup," and noted, "There is a grungy high spirit during the first third of this film, but then it dissipates like a mist from an aerosol can." In a review for the Village Voice, Ed Halter called the work a "selfconsciously cornball horror film." Other reviewers found themselves enjoying the film despite their better judgments, including Desson Thomson, who called the movie "sleazily enjoyable" in a review for the Washington Post. Bob Townsend of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, concluded that "though, predictably, there's some gooey gore, snickering potty banter and more than a few bad Elvis jokes, this improbable movie is more substantial and more amusing than it has any right to be."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 7, 2003, Bob Townsend, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. D5.
Boston Globe, October 17, 2003, Wesley Morris, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. D8.
Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2003, Robert K. Elder, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. 7.
New Statesman, October 11, 2004, Mark Kermode, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. 46.
New York Times, September 26, 2003, Elvis Mitchell, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. E18.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), January 23, 2004, Michael H. Kleinschrodt, review of Bubba Hotep, p. 5.
Variety, August 9, 2004, Jenny Lynn, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. 35.
Village Voice, September 24, 2003, Ed Halter, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. 70.
Washington Post, January 9, 2004, Desson Thomson, review of Bubba Ho-tep, p. C5.
DigitalBits.com, http://www.thedigitalbits.com/ (November 4, 2004), "Tall Tales: The Man behind Phantasm" (interview).
Horror.com, http://www.horror.com/ (November 4, 2004), interview with Coscarelli.
Phantasm.com, http://www.phantasm.com/ (November 4, 2004), "Don Coscarelli."*