Rudolph C. Flothow for Columbia
directed by B. Reeves Eason
starring Tom Tyler, Jeanne Bates, Kenneth MacDonald, Frank Shannon, Joe Devlin, Ernie Adams, Pat O'Malley, Joe Bagni, Stanley Price, Wade Crosby, George Chesebro, Edmund Cobb, John Indrisano, I.Stanford Jolley, Paul Marion, Kermit Maynard, Dan White, Pierce Lyden, Sol Gorss, Al Hill, Robert Barron, Anthony Caruso, Early Cantrell, Ángel Cruz, Guy Kingsford, John Maxwell, Lal Chand Mehra, Paul Newlan, Eddie Parker, Alex Havier, Ernesto Morelli, Anthony Warde, Jay Silverheels, Dick Curtis, Reed Howes, Iron Eyes Cody, Al Ferguson, Ace the Wonder Dog
screenplay by Leslie Swabacker, Morgan Cox, Victor McLeod, Sherman L.Lowe, based on the comic strip created by Lee Falk, Ray Moore, published by King Features, music by Lee Zahler
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Somewhere in deepest Africa (where all the natives are white): Geoffrey
Prescott (Tom Tyler) is to join the safari/treasure hunt of professor
Davidson (Frank Shannon), father of his fiancée Diana (Jeanne Bates),
when he learns about the death of his father. You see, Prescott's father
was the Phantom, the almost mythical and allegedly immortal (the title is
in fact passed on from father to son) masked man whose rule over the
jungle keeps the peace
between the native tribes ... and since daddy is dead, the mask is passed
on to the son.
The Phantom though is not without opponents, especially
foreign agent Doctor Bremmer (Kenneth MacDonald), who at all costs wants
to break the Phantom's rule over the natives and ultimately turn the
natives' land into secret airbase. On the other hand, there's Singapore
Smith (Joe Devlin), who has learned about professor Davidson's treasure
hunt, and he will stop at nothing to get the treasure map, and once he has
it in his hands, he blames Prescott (who's off playing the Phantom) for
its theft. Eventually though, Smith is killed by Bremmer's men, who
want to keep whoever it is from finding the treasure that's supoposed to
be in the mittle of their proposed airfield ...
Anyways, from now on,
Prescott/the Phantom has his hands full trying to keep professor
Davidson's expedition out of trouble, prove his (Prescott's) innocence
concerning the theft of the map, and keeping the natives quiet.
follows are the usual jungle-themed chases and fist-fights and the Phantom
having to face pretty much every peril of the jungle in the book, from
wild animals to quicksand, from a phony Fire Princess (Early Cantrell) to collapsing rope bridges to whatever else
thrown at him.
Finally, at a midieval castle ruled by Tartar (Dick
Curtis) in the middle of the jungle, the Phantom finds the missing piece
of the professor's treasure map ... but has to retrieve it from the neck
of a gorilla he has to fight in Tartar's arena - of course, the Phantom
Finally, the professor's expedition makes it to the secret
entrance to the hidden city their treasure is supposed to be at - but they
have a traitor among their ranks, Byron (Guy Kingsford), who gives Bremmer
an advance warning for a bigger share in the treasure - and Bremmer
supposes blowing up the mines the Phantom and company are searching for
the treasure should put a permanent end to his foe's actions against him.
Then he makes up one of his henchmen as the Phantom and uses him to
influence the natives in his interest ... but unfortunately, one of
Bremmer's allies, chief Chota (Stanley Prince), doesn't know about
Bremmer's deceit and kills the false Phantom by blowdart - and from here
on it's not long before the actual Phantom arrives, overcomes Bremmer and
sets everything right again.
The Phantom is certainly no
great serial, but it's alright - especially by Columbia's
standards, as their serials were always far from great. Of course, the
lack of black natives in an Africa-based story is annoying, but the wild,
unreflexive mix of costumes for the different tribes, as is the naivity of
The Phantom's storyline as such. So while the whole thing might not
be great, prepare to at least be entertained!