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LYNNE FREDERICK CINEMA: KILLER ANTS IN 'PHASE IV'

YEAR: 1974 Michael Murphy, Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick
While the classic Giant Ant flick THEM was basically a Film Noir Creature-Feature combined with a war movie template; and Bert I. Gordon's H.G. Wells very-loosely adapted EMPIRE OF THE ANTS brought us into a campy yet intriguing, ensemble body-count adventure involving a crooked land deal; and the made-for-television ANTS centered on a similar premise concerning developmental/environmental concerns... PHASE IV stands out above all other ant-driven horror films in that cult director Jules Bass, famous for his opening credit sequences and partnership with Arthur Rankin... which included the animated HOBBIT and so many of those classic stop-motion Christmas specials... takes us extremely close and tightly cerebral to the subjects at hand, providing a sort of Einstein at the Drive-In...

PhaseScore: ****
And PHASE has Bass all alone, with animation replaced by what seems, aesthetically, a post-apocalyptic, rural location where ants are taking (or already have taken) over...

Lynne Frederick profiles
Here's where Nigel Davenport's scientist Dr. Ernest D. Hubbs is teamed with a younger, less informed but just as essential Michael Murphy as James R. Lesko: holed-up in a domed structure receiving various codes on that-era's giant computers. Upon saving one survivor from a family that refused to escape when warned, we meet Lynne Frederick as Kendra Eldridge, who, once taken into the compound, puts the research in jeopardy while adding a mysterious edge: as if she were an intentional visitor all along, which sounds a bit STAR TREK and, in fact, there is a touch of that particular enigmatic vibe going on here...

Blu Ray Artwork
Narrated by Murphy's character in a lifeless monotone (along with random log entries by Davenport), the premise is complicated yet easy to follow, somehow, and impossible to explain but it all comes down to the capability of ants ruling Earth the way they do their own meticulous kingdom, a concept that's been used before only never so creative and beautifully filmed, providing not only the scorched desert landscapes and close-up shots of the particularly resilient insects, but various glimpses of the universe beyond our own.

Lynne Frederick in Phase IV
At the lead, Davenport plays a sort of "mad scientist" who ironically remains cool and ambiguous while Murphy keeps a discreet eye on the Frederick...

As the stock vulnerable ingenue, wields more humanity than exposition with a gentle chemistry with Murphy... While Davenport's eventual desperation invokes needed urgency and suspense. And although PHASE IV slightly lacks the genre's signature devices of urgency, terror and action, there's a feeling of staring into a microscope and witnessing a transition that only a visually-driven filmmaker like Jules Bass can make seem completely realistic and palpable: like fully experiencing a methodical, nightmarish process instead of merely witnessing it. As if we, the viewer, are subjects.
A very pointed moment between Michael Murphy and Lynne Frederick in PHASE 4
Michael Murphy and Lynne Frederick in PHASE IV photos... Frederick was Peter Sellers' last wife/widow
Michael Murphy Lynne Frederick Phase IV Lynne Frederick Michael Murphy Phase Four
Introduced to the older, more experienced and yet, not as trusting (to her) scientist
Played by the always-intense, future Chariots of Fire intense lord, Nigel Davenport
Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick and Michael Murphy in an altogether rare shot all together
Lynne Frederick Phase IV Lynne Frederick Phase Four Lynne Frederick Phase 4 Lynne Frederick
Lynne Frederick, Michael Murphy & Nigel Davenport
Buy the Blu Ray Online... Terrific Transfer
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