The Phantasmic Terror of the Tall Man: A Tribute to Angus Scrimm (8/19/1926-1/9/2016)

The Phantom of the Ville pays tribute to one of the greatest icons of the Modern Horror genre, the unforgettable Angus Scrimm!

The Tall Man has left our dimension. Angus Scrimm, a pseudonym for Kansas City born actor Lawrence Rory Guy, has shuffled off the mortal coil at 89 years old. Best known as the star and primary villain of the “Phantasm” franchise, which saw four films released between 1979 and 1998, and one more completed and scheduled for release in 2016, Scrimm has terrified a couple of generations of horror fans throughout his enduring career.

My first bone chilling experience with Angus Scrimm happened at the undeniably impressionable age of 13 years old. I was part of an adolescent gaggle of young punks who planned all week to attend the weekend double feature of John Carpenter’sThe Fog” (1980) and “Phantasm” (1979), which was being theatrically re-released in conjunction with Carpenter’s follow-up to “Halloween” (1978). At the time, it was Carpenter’s modern ghost story that was the primary interest of our little grindhouse adventure, as none of us had ever heard of “Phantasm.”

Little did we know that our lives were about to change and our minds were about to be blown like the victims of the Tall Man’s silver spheres in the film. The first time I heard Scrimm’s gravelly voice intone the word ‘Boyyyyyyyy,’ it was like the threat intended for star A. Michael Baldwin leapt right off the screen and was intended exclusively for me! I shouldn’t be there. This film was rated R for ages 17 years and up, and the Tall Man had caught me sneaking around in his theater. By silver sphere, driverless hearse, evil dwarf or demon spawn of hacked off finger, the Tall Man was going to get me!

Take 90 minutes this week and re-watch the original film to really get an appreciation of the physical performance Scrimm conjures up in “Phantasm.” Watch the contortions of his facial muscles and eyebrows when delivering his dialogue, and examine the unforgettable scowl he etches on our psyche even when he says absolutely nothing. Considering his character only has a few minutes of screen time and exactly five lines of dialogue, his presence looms over the entire film. The Tall Man speaks only these five brief lines:

The funeral is about to begin, sir.”

I’ve been waiting for you.”

Heh, heh, heh, heh. Boy!”

You play a good game, boy, but the game is finished. Now you die!”


Less than 30 words and a couple of minutes of screen time later, Scrimm gave birth to a Modern Horror icon that would inspire four sequels, numerous home video special editions, action figures and collectibles.

Recently, it has been revealed that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director, J.J. Abrams, is such a huge “Phantasm” fan that his Bad Robot Studios have acquired the rights to the franchise, re-mastered a new 4K version of the original film to be theatrically released in 2016 and even named a character in “The Force Awakens,” the chrome armored Captain Phasma, in honor of the horror series.

Scrimm owes much of his silver screen boogieman infamy to director Don Coscarelli, who cast him in his very first independent and rarely screened or seen film, “Jim, the World’s Greatest” (1976), alongside “Phantasm” co-star Reggie Bannister. Coscarelli, who has a career spanning habit of reusing his favorite character actors over and over, finally found the perfect part to fit Scrimm into when he squeezed Scrimm’s six foot four inch frame into funeral attire two sizes too small to give him an even more intimidating physical appearance as an alien from another dimension who owns a mausoleum which serves as a front to steal the bodies of the recently deceased and transform them into slaves for his Hellish home planet.

Previously billing himself as Lawrence Guy, the actor assumed the screen name of Angus Scrimm when appearing in low budget horror films and thus began a whole second career as a horror icon. This led to roles in B-movies like “Chopping Mall,” “Transylvania Twist,” “Subspecies” and “Mindwarp” with genre acting legend, Bruce Campbell. Most recently, Don Coscarelli brought Scrimm back to the silver screen for a small part in “John Dies at the End” (2012).

Scrimm will deliver one last, posthumous performance as the Tall Man in “Phantasm: Ravager,” appearing on screen with his “Phantasm” (1979) cast mates A. Michael Baldwin (Mike), Reggie Bannister (Reggie), Bill Thornbury (Jody) and Kathy Lester (The Lady in Lavender) sometime later this year.

I remember riding my bike home from the movie theater late that night after the one-two terror punch of “Phantasm” and “The Fog,” peddling as fast as my 13 year old legs could manage. Every tree, every shadow in those neighborhood backstreets took on a sinister purpose as the eerie piano and synth based score of the movie played inside my head. Moments later, after ditching my bike in the backyard and entering the dark house, I lay awake in my bed trying to get to sleep. Keeping my extremities as far away from the corners of the bed as possible as to avoid the grasping, clammy hands of the Tall Man’s dwarves, certain they were just awaiting Angus Scrimm’s command to drag me to Hell, I waited and listened.

In my head, I heard the Tall Man call out from the darkness.


The Phantom of The Ville

Write a Review


Comments are closed.