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The Phantom is a 1996 pulp superhero movie directed by Simon Wincer, based off of the popular comic strip of the same name.

PlotEdit

SynopsisEdit

The Bangalla Jungla. 1938. A group of men, led by the surly Quill, forces a young native boy to guide them to a cave deep in the jungle, despite the boy's protests that the area is forbidden, protected by a being known as "the ghost who walks." Quill's three men Styles, Breen and Morgan are skeptical but Quill knowingly rubs a scar on his cheek in the shape of a tiny skull and tells them not to worry about this "ghost."

Leaving the kid tied up in their truck, Quill and his men enter the cave, where they find a silver skull with green jewels for eyes. It quickly becomes apparent that this is what the men have come for. Despite a small setback (if you can call Styles being killed by a skeleton that inexplicably comes to life and strangles him a "small setback"), the crooks successfully exit with the skull and other ill- gotten loot, only to come face to face with the jungle's protector, a masked man in a purple body stocking astride a white stallion, accompanied by a ferocious wolf. No one is more terrified than Quill, who orders Breen to shoot the man. To their surprise and horror, the man, the "ghost who walks," shoots Breen's gun right out of his hand with a firearm of his own!

He is the Phantom. His horse: Hero. His wolf: Devil. He is the ghost who walks. And he protects the jungle.

The Phantom easily defeats and captures Breen and Morgan, and rescues the native boy, but Quill escapes with the silver skull. Turning the criminals over to the Jungle Patrol led by Captain Philip Horton, the Phantom returns to his cavern lair and seeks the guidance of his father's spirit. Through him, he learns that the silver skull the looters came for is one of the mystical Skulls of Touganda. There are three - one made of silver, one made of gold, and one made of jade. If all three are brought together they'll produce a powerful supernatural force deadlier than any weapon known to mankind. And Quill still has it!

In New York, Diana Palmer visits her uncle, Dave Palmer, who owns the Tribune newspaper. She finds him butting heads with businessman Xander Drax, after which Drax is compelled to leave following insinuations he has ties to the mob. Dave reveals that he's learned through a source at the library that Drax has been researching the Skulls of Touganda. He wants to go to the Bangalla Jungle to talk to Captain Horton of the matter; however, due to his age, Diana decides to go in his stead. She boards a plane for the Orient the next day, unaware that crime boss Ray Zephro and his brother Charlie are watching her, and inform Drax of her departure.

After disposing of the librarian who spoke to Dave Palmer by tricking him into looking through a microscope that has knives come out of the eyepieces, Drax sends his all-female pilot corps to intercept Diana's plane. They force it down over the sea. Diana surrenders to the pilots' leader, Sala, to spare the other passengers, and is taken captive aboard Quill's ship. The Phantom learns of her abduction from Horton, and manages to rescue her. He still fails to recover the silver skull, though. After seeing her safely back to New York, the Phantom, realizing it is Drax who is the one who is behind everything, also heads to the Big Apple in an effort to prevent the ruthless businessman from obtaining any more of the magical skulls.

Quill and Sala have delivered the silver skull to Drax. Quill tells his boss about the Phantom, claiming to have encountered and killed him before, insisting the "ghost who walks" can't die. Drax is unconcerned because he knows the location of the jade one. Worse, when the first two are brought together they'll reveal the location of the third. And with the Zephro family and the corrupt Commissioner Farley at Drax's beck and call, the Phantom is going to have his hands full fighting evil in the big city...

ReviewEdit

Billy Zane as the Phantom makes a wonderfully charismatic and jolly hero, very much in the swashbuckling, old movie serial vein, whilst Treat Williams chews the scenery and spits it out as the villainous Drax, who simply loves being sadist and evil more than any villain I've ever seen. Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy!) is decent as Diana, while I find Catherine Zeta-Jones as Sala just plain annoying. The supporting cast is pretty good, particularly James Remar as Quill and Shang Tsung himself, Cary- Hiroyuki Tagawa, as the pirate lord Kabai Sengh, a prominent villain who doesn't show up until the end.

The locations and action sequences are good, and the sets are mostly decent except for the pirate lair at the end, which looks pretty fake. The Phantom's rescue of the native boy from the truck hanging off the collapsing bridge, the escape from Quill's ship in a biplane, the chase on horseback through New York, and the climactic swordfight with the pirates all excite and delight. Only the finale is a letdown, with the magical skulls' destructive power being pretty underwhelming, performance-wise.

Blood and gore is minimal. It has a few scary bits, such as the skeleton coming to life and killing Styles, but this is nothing that I haven't already seen in a Mummy movie. Drax's death is all special effects-y and more cartoonish than violent, and even the blinding of the librarian by the infamous killer microscope occurs entirely offscreen. Really, the most violent deaths are when we see a pretty brutal direct hit from a cannonball, and when someone gets eaten by sharks. Lots of blood there. But by and large it's all fairly tame.

Bottom line, The Phantom is fun. The type of superhero movie they don't make anymore.

CastEdit

Main CastEdit

  • Billy Zane .................. The Phantom / Kit Walker
  • Kristy Swanson .............. Diana Palmer
  • Treat Williams .............. Xander Drax
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones ........ Sala
  • James Remar ................. Quill
  • Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa ........ The Great Kabai Sengh
  • Bill Smitrovich ............. Uncle Dave Palmer
  • Casey Siemaszko ............. Morgan
  • David Proval ................ Charlie Zephro
  • Joseph Ragno ................ Ray Zephro
  • Samantha Eggar .............. Lily Palmer
  • Jon Tenney .................. Jimmy Wells
  • Patrick McGoohan ............ The Phantom's Dad
  • Robert Coleby ............... Captain Philip Horton
  • Al Ruscio ................... Commissioner Farley

Supporting CastEdit

  • Leon Russom ................. Mayor Krebs
  • Bernard Kates ............... Falkmoore
  • John Capodice ............... Al
  • Bo Kane ..................... Mounted Cop
  • William Jones ............... Cycle Cop
  • John Prosky ................. Cycle Cop
  • Alan Zitner ................. Dr. Fleming
  • Dane Carson ................. Corporal Weeks
  • Chatpong "Jim" Petchlor ..... Zak
  • Dane Farwell ................ Breen
  • Jared Chandler .............. Styles
  • Radmar Agana Jao ............ Guran
  • William Zappa ............... Ugly Pirate
  • Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo ..... Pirate #1
  • Clint Lilley ................ Gangster #1
  • Jo Phillips ................. Female Pilot
  • Austin Peters ............... Boy Phantom
  • Victor Madrona .............. Shaman
  • Valerie Flueger Veras ....... Drax's Receptionist
  • Rod Dailey .................. Short Order Cook

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