The Phantom (serial)

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The Phantom
Phantomserial.jpg
DVD cover art
Directed by B. Reeves Eason
Produced by Rudolph C. Flothow
Written by Morgan Cox
Victor McLeod
Leslie Swabacker
Sherman L. Lowe
Lee Falk (character)
Ray Moore (character)
Starring Tom Tyler
Jeanne Bates
Kenneth MacDonald
Ace the Wonder Dog
Music by Lee Zahler
Cinematography James S. Brown Jr.
Edited by Henry Adams
Dwight Caldwell
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 24, 1943 (1943-12-24)
Running time 15 chapters (299 min)
Country United States
Language English

The Phantom is a 1943 classic Columbia Pictures cliffhanger serial starring Tom Tyler in the title role. The serial is based on Lee Falk's comic strip The Phantom. The serial also features Jeanne Bates as the Phantom's girlfriend Diana Palmer, and Ace the Wonder Dog as the Phantom's trusty German shepherd Devil (who is a wolf in the original comic).

Plot[edit]

Professor Davidson plans an expedition to find the Lost City of Zoloz. The location of the city is contained on seven pieces of ivory, three of which Davidson already possesses. Doctor Bremmer, however, intends to find the lost city and use it as a secret airbase for his unnamed country. To remove him as an obstacle, he kills The Phantom, only for his recently returned son, Geoffrey Prescott, to inherit the family identity and take over the mantle of The Phantom.

Three of the remaining ivory pieces are owned by Singapore Smith, who initially steals Davidson's pieces. The seventh, and most important, piece is missing at first but turns up in the possession of Tartar (which The Phantom acquires by wrestling Tartar's pet gorilla).

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Like most serials, the film had a relatively low budget. In the serial, the Phantom's real name is Geoffrey Prescott, while in the comic strip, his real name is Kit Walker, due to the name "Kit" not having been used in the strip up to that point. Here, when covering his costume with a hat, dark glasses, and an overcoat so as to enter civilization unobtrusively, the Phantom tells Singapore Smith to call him "Walker." Most of the serial was filmed in the Hollywood hills, which doubled as the African jungle.

Release[edit]

Home media[edit]

The serial was released on a double-disc DVD by VCI Video in 2001 (reusing the cover box art from their previous VHS version), featuring a commentary track by writer Max Allan Collins (for Chapter One only) as well as other special features, including actor bios, photo gallery, and comic book art gallery. Much of the dialogue of one of the chapters (Chapter 11) had to be re-dubbed by new actors, because of sound damage to the original film's soundtrack negative which were damaged from ravages of time.

A different DVD-edition was released exclusively for Australia in 2005. Its main special feature is an hour-long conversation between Frew Publications editor-in-chief Jim Shepherd and film historian James Sherlock about the history of the Phantom comic and its various screen adaptations, presented in place of a commentary track over the first three chapters of the serial.

Critical reception[edit]

According to Harmon and Glut: "Unquestionably, The Phantom was one of Columbia's better serials...a task in casting, settings, and mood totally missing in such disasters as Batman from the same studio."[2] Cline writes that Tyler's characterisation, in his last serial role, was more vivid than that in Adventures of Captain Marvel but slightly less memorable.[3]

Attempted sequel[edit]

In 1955, Columbia Pictures filmed a sequel to The Phantom,[4] this time with John Hart in the lead role (Tom Tyler had died in 1954). The serial was well into production when producer Sam Katzman discovered that Columbia's rights to the character had expired, and owner King Features was unwilling to renew them. Katzman hastily transformed Return of the Phantom into The Adventures of Captain Africa.[5]

Chapter titles[edit]

  1. The Sign of the Skull
  2. The Man Who Never Dies
  3. A Traitor's Code
  4. The Seat of Judgment
  5. The Ghost Who Walks
  6. Jungle Whispers
  7. The Mystery Well
  8. In Quest of the Keys
  9. The Fire Princess
  10. The Chamber of Death
  11. The Emerald Key
  12. The Fangs of the Beast
  13. The Road to Zoloz
  14. The Lost City
  15. Peace in the Jungle

Source:[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 26. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  2. ^ a b Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "10. The Long-Underwear Boys "You've Met Me, Now Meet My Fist!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 268–270. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  3. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "5. A Cheer for the Champions (The Heroes and Heroines)". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 83. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  4. ^ Review at New York Times
  5. ^ Comic Book Marketplace #121, May 2005, Gemstone Publishing.
  6. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 236–237. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 

External links[edit]