Still Watching the Skies: Episode 83 “Phase IV”

Nat, Cody, and Robert confront evolutionary superiority in Saul Bass’s PHASE IV.

After a strange astronomical event, several species of ants have apparently evolved in the Arizona desert and begin plotting together. Strange structures are built by the ants. Etymologist Ernest Hubbs (Nigel Davenport) and number theorist James Lesko (Michael Murphy), along with a local survivor Kendra Eldridge (Lynne Frederick), soon find themselves in a life and death battle with the ants for the future of the planet.

Phase IV

PHASE IV is an evolution from the giant insect movies of the 1950s which, in the shadow of the atomic bomb, illustrated mankind’s fears of diminished status in the face of the atomic bomb. Unlike THEM!, PHASE IV doesn’t require an evolution in size, but rather in intelligence to illustrate its point. It’s also spurred by natural phenomena perhaps illustrating some of the ideas and fears stirred up by Earth Day and early 1970s environmental activism. Mankind

Phase IV

There is a heady mix of ideas in PHASE IV. Fears of subjugation by the Soviet Union are replaced with a more primal “other”. It often plays as a combination of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. The special effects and ant photography is often quite fantastic. Yet it was a flop upon release, although it later developed a cult following.

Phase IV

We delve into the whys and wherefores and what it all means in our discussion. Is it dramatically satisfying? Would the trippy, cut ending have helped? We have a lot to discuss.

No need to await instructions from your new ant overlords. You can give us a play below or Download the episode. Also, feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below or Email Us at as we appreciate feedback.

Time tracks:

PHASE IV Discussion: 0:00 to 44:18

Next Film and Outro: 44:18 to End

Next month, we take on Brian DePalma and his big budget MISSION TO MARS. We hope you’ll join us.

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