Super Mates 57 : The Phantom – 1996

Summer Blockbusters That Weren’t, Part 2! Chris and Cindy head to the jungles of Bengalla to talk about the 1996 film, The Phantom, starring Billy Zane! The Ghost Who Walks gets involved in a globetrotting adventure surrounding a set of mystical skulls! Listen on and SLAM EVIL!!!


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Clip credits:

“Wedding March” from Flash Gordon by Queen

Selected tracks from The Phantom soundtrack by David Newman

“Slam” by Onyx

29 responses to “Super Mates 57 : The Phantom – 1996

  1. I first became aware of The Phantom by reading his Sunday strips back in my local newspaper during the 1980s and there was also a 1 hr program from the Biography TV show in the 1990s where they covered the character. I think it was during a week featuring episodes devoted to Tarzan & Flash Gordon too. I also saw the Billy Zane movie in the theaters. I will have to check it out again once I’ve finished listening to your episode.

    I’ve been reading the recent Dynamite Comics featuring The Phantom and quite enjoying them. I originally bought them for the Alex Ross covers but ended up truly liking the stories. Currently I’m reading “The King Collection” featuring interconnected adventures (& Darwyn Cooke covers!) of Phantom, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, Mandrake, & Prince Valiant. In this storyline, Lowthar (Mandrake’s assistant) is the new Ghost Who Walks until he can track down the true heir to the heroic dynasty. The Walker heir is soon revealed to be Jen Harris, a reporter who is a friend of Dale Arden (Flash Gordon).

    BTW: Last weekend I went to see the new Tarzan film starring Alexander Skarsgard & Margot Robie and I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it was. Samuel L Jackson, Christoph Waltz, & Dmijon Hounsou provide solid support. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this pulp hero’s latest screen incarnation. Keep up the fine work!

    1. Thanks Chuck! That Dynamite series sounds interesting! I might have to check that out. I’m planning on seeing the Tarzan film at some point. All of my friends who are diehard fans of ERB’s Tarzan stories say this one captures the spirit of the original stories, so that’s good enough for me!


      1. We saw the Tarzan movies a couple of days ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. A few tweaks to update it for modern audiences, but the essence of the character and story are in tact. Very nicely done.

  2. Unlike THE SHADOW, which I have gone back to a few times, I only saw THE PHANTOM once, in the theater. I remember it being a nice attempt, but mostly a dud. Now that it’s on Netflix perhaps I should give it another spin.

    We hear Cindy sing in this episode! I think that’s a first. And Chris gets hit because he won’t brag about himself? Man thinks are tough around the Franklin house.

    Thanks for the FILM plug!

    1. Yeah, we’re a Lifetime movie waiting to happen.

      I put the Phantom card images up at Cindy’s insistence. I can’t take the pain anymore!

      I would definitely check the movie out again Rob. Zane and the locales are worth it alone.


  3. I also saw this in the theater and once more off cable. It is joyous camp but I don’t know if I would need to see it again. But now that its on Netflix maybe I need to give it another whirl.

    Treat Williams totally chews the scenery. I keep imagining him doing something more nuanced and the director yelling ‘more … give me more insanity!!!’

    Kristy Swanson is definitely a block of wood … but she’s my block of wood. I think I have seen her whole filmography.

    But I think McGoohan and Zane are likeable and pretty earnest. They alone might make it worth another watch.

    1. I think if Williams gave the director more insanity…he’s still be in a jacket with REALLY long sleeves!

      I have no problem with Kristy Swanson in general, but…yeah…not her best performance.

      Yep, as I mentioned to Rob, it’s worth a Netflix viewing for sure!


  4. Great episode Cindy, but Chris, Chris, Chris, you continue to get the filmographies of Aussie director’s all wrong. Simon Wincer is most famous for directing PHAR LAP, the historical pic about the famous Melbourne Cup winning race horse (think Sea Biscuit except the entire population gives a crap).

    The Phantom really is bizarrely popular in Australia. Right now I could walk into any Newsagency across the nation and pick up a brand new Phantom issue. It’s been published and distributed by Frew publications for thousands of years here. I was at a farm deceased estate clearance sale a few years back, and all those old buggers who wouldn’t hesitate to spit on a Marvel comic reader, bid the crap up out of a pile of old Phantom comics. I bet the Phantom movie did alright down here.

    I always liked it (not loved it), but I rank it above The Shadow and below The Rocketeer, mostly because of their equivalent faithfulness to the source material. I got super nostagic for it recently mostly for the stunt/action scenes, and picked it up from the closing down of a local Video Hire store. Honestly, seeing the Phantom on horseback does something to my soul.

    Also boooooo to no listener feedback.

    1. Hey Paul, I’m from Kentucky, and we take our horse racing seriously! Well, many Kentuckians do. I really don’t.

      So the Phantom IS really popular in Australia. I know about the whole Paul Hogan thing. Should have brought those skits up.

      Yeah, the Phantom on the white horse is like bringing the Lone Ranger one step closer to Batman for me, so I dig it!

      Listener feedback returns next episode! I already have it in the notes!


  5. Oh, you know I was in the theater to see this! My intro to the Phantom was the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie (one for the new Saturday Morning podcast) episode, “Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter.” It featured characters from King Features Syndicate comic strips, including the Phantom. My next meeting was the Charlton comic, a few years later, with issue 66 (one issue before Don Newton took over). I lucked into issue 70, “The Mystery of the Mali Ibex.” That one is a big Humphrey Bogart riff, with characters and plot point from various Bogart films. That cemented a love of the character. I collected as many of the comics as I could find (including all of the Newton issues) and the entire paperback series (which is being reprinted!) of novels.
    The film was good fun and I enjoyed most of it, though Kristy Swanson and Treat Williams are the weak points, for me. Swanson is pretty lifeless (I liked her better in the original Buffy movie_ and Williams is miscast. His All-American looks and high pitched voice just don’t work for a Phantom villain. He also played too many nice guys in previous movies (my lady loves him in Hair; I enjoyed him in The Pursuit of DB Cooper). I just couldn’t buy him as evil. I would have rather seen Zeta Jones as the center villain or someone a little more intimidating than Williams. Zane is great as the hero and Patrick McGoohan is his usual awesome self. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was pretty good as the leader of the Singh pirates. There’s plenty of adventure and practical stunts and it was a valiant try at a Raiders style adventure movie. I still thing the Columbia serial, with Tom Tyler, is better; but, this has a good script and a mostly good cast.
    I had a bootleg of that Phantom tv pilot and it isn’t anything special. It’s not bad; but, it isn’t memorable. The Tom Tyler serial is one of Columbia’s best and captures the character well. That Sci-Fi mini-series isn’t that bad. It isn’t great; but, I’ve seen much worse. The headpiece is stupid-looking, and the plot is a bit too generic.
    The air pirates were straight from one of the early strips and they got pretty steamy. They could have made for a decent threat throughout the film. I don’t know why they didn’t trust them for the main threat.
    That “Slam evil!” tag-line was pretty stupid. All you had to do was mimic some of those great images, like the painted covers of George Wilson, or Don Newton or Jim Aparo’s work.
    Angelina Jolie was the British captain of the helicarrier in Sky Captain.
    The Univ. of Illinois (my alma matter) has one of the best collegiate libraries in the country (and one of the top library science programs) and it has a lot of what Cindy describes. I did a paper on the history of comics, for a history class, ad could look at Seduction of the Innocent in “the stacks,” but, couldn’t check it out.
    The Phantom has a very close relationship with the Jungle Patrol and is the secret head of it. Over the years, the Jungle Patrol becomes the training ground for law enforcement officers from around the globe. It is pretty much like Commissioner Gordon and Batman. Bill Finger borrowed a lot from Lee Falk (as did later writers).
    Wait, you get hit for a sexist remark and for not tooting your own horn? Man, a few episodes down the line and you’ll be sitting in a corner, flinching and muttering.

    1. As always, you bring the knowledge Jeff. Much appreciated!

      I didn’t know about that Saturday Superstar Movie! I’ll have to see if it’s out on youtube somewhere. I do remember the Daffy Duck/Groovie Goolies one. Such odd projects…but very cool!


      1. There’s a little bit on there. Hanna-Barbera did Oliver and the Artful Dodger, which is available from the Warner Archives, on a set of cartoon specials, as is Yogi’s Ark. It featured Toth character designs and a sequel to Dickens. They also did a pilot for a Lost in Space cartoon, that was decent. Filmation debuted the Brady Kids on there, in a two-parter, then launched the series (now on dvd). There were a few based on tv shows, like the aforementioned Bradys, as well as Nannie and the Professor, That Girl, and Tabitha and Adam (from Bewitched). There is an odd Red Baron thing, with dogs. I think that was a Rankin-Bass one. The Grovvie Goolies and Looney Tunes one was infamous and horrible. The Popeye one was a fun treat, with a mix of the comedy strip characters and the adventure characters.

        That Warner Archive set, with Oliver and the Artful Dodger, also features an excellent cartoon adaptation of Cyrano, with Jose Ferrer voicing the character. I remember seeing it as an after-school special and fell in love with the story/play.

        1. ps The series was on ABC in 1972 and 1973; I’m not surprised you’d hadn’t heard of it. Most people tended to remember the specific pilots, rather than the series title. It’s like the Krofft Brothers shows; most people have some knowledge of Land of the Lost, some know HR Puffnstuff, but very few remember the Bugaloos (or Lidsville).

      1. King Features did a big crossover during the Dagwood and Blondie anniversary. I don’t know all; but, I think some of the adventure strip characters also appeared. However, Dick Tracy is controlled by the Tribune Media Syndicate, while the Phantom is King Features. That is a bit unprecedented.

        Mort Walker did a strip for a while, Sam’s Strip, back in the 60s, which featured all kinds of comic strip characters turning up. It was very much an “inside” kind of comic strip. It never had big distribution; but, if you are a fan, it had some really funny gags. I have scans of Little Nemo magazine, which carried it. There is a book collection out there, from 2008.

  6. The Tracy strip has been great the last few years since Joe Staton came on board as the artist. It has also seen cross-overs with several other classic strips. Just last week, Tracy teamed up with Fearless Fosdick (Li’l Abner) & the Orphan Annie characters are almost semi-regulars now. In the current storyline, Oliver Warbucks donated his plane for Tracy’s vacation.

    1. I had no idea. I knew Staton was drawing it, which seems like a perfect fit. Imagine a Dick Tracy/Phantom movie from the 90s with Warren Beatty and Billy Zane! Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks! The mind boggles…


      1. Yes, Joe Staton’s work on Dick Tracy is very nice. We got a Dick Tracy poster signed by him at a con a couple of years ago. His style fits the series very well.

  7. Ruth and I obviously enjoy this movie more than the two of you. We just find it to be great fun. Billy Zane is fabulous in the roll and we thoroughly enjoy Treat Williams’ very over-the-top performance.

    I agree that the location filming visually elevates the film above the dark and set driven The Shadow, but both movies offer many things to like.

    In fact, we were happy that our local independent cinema showed it on the big screen last year. While we had seen it in the theater during its original release it was great to see it on the big screen again and appreciate those spectacular locations even more.

    We’re big fans of Patrick McGoohan from Danger Man and The Prisoner and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Like you we missed getting it on DVD during the 5 minutes it was available and continue to search for a copy regularly … one of these days! 🙂

    Thanks for the fun episode!


    1. Darrin, if I ever see the Scarecrow DVD pop up somewhere, and they have two copies, I’ll give you a heads-up. 🙂

      I would love to see The Phantom on the big screen again. The cinematography and stunt work alone is worth a trip to the theater to see it. You just don’t see movies like that anymore.


      1. That’s a deal! We’ll do the same for you if we ever find the Scarecrow DVD as well. We have a friend who lives in the UK and he keeps an eye for it as well in case it every gets a release there since it stars Patrick McGoohan.

        Also, I forgot to mention just how cool it was that you did that artwork for The Phantom action figure! I’m glad you bragged about it and I’m glad Cindy encouraged you to brag a little more. That’s excellent!

        1. Thanks! Yeah, that was one of my favorite projects. Cast-A-Way also had a Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon in the works, and THAT was the favorite piece I’ve ever done, as far as art or design, but it never made it into production, unfortunately.


          1. Oh Wow! Being a fan of those classic Buster Crabbe serials, that sounds fantastic! A real shame it didn’t go to production 🙁

    2. I had to settle for a bootleg. It looked like it was taken from the Disney VHS release of the Dr Syn, Alias The Scarecrow movie version.

      Pretty sweet Buster Crabbe-as-Flash. Loved that costume, from Flash Gordon’s trip to Mars. First time I saw it was in a clip, shown on the tv documentary, The Making of Star Wars, back in 1977. I didn’t get to see the serial until about 20 years later!

  8. The part with the jewels definitely is not stupid. Obviously The Phantom knew they were valuable stones because, well, he used them to pay the guy. If he had no concept of them being worth anything that wouldn’t make sense, would it? Would you pay someone with random rocks worth nothing at all? Of course not. So no, he was not clueless. Your beef seems to be that he just gave them away. But there are a couple of problems with that. One, it shows you’re so set in a consumerist/materialist mindset that you can’t grasp the idea of someone who has something valuable that he does not covet and want for himself. Two, you don’t seem to understand the idea of relative wealth. I grew up with a lot of money. I had a lot of things most other kids did not. I remember one kid I knew got two NES games for Christmas one year that totaled about a hundred bucks and that’s all he got. That was kind of a big deal for him, whereas for me those would have been stocking stuffers. It’s relative.

    Now, remember the Skull Cave? If you need to look at it again it’s just a few remote clicks away with your DVD player. Look how much gold and treasure there is in that joint. That guy is rich. Like super rich. Bill Gates rich? Maybe not. But still quite rich. For Mitt Romney he could drop his phone and buy a new one with front pocket money and do it everyday. For someone else they’d only be able to do it once or twice before it’s like “Well, I don’t have the cash for a new phone so now I’m screwed.” If that. Maybe not even that. It all depends how much you have.

    So it’s not stupid. One, he’s got so much it’s inconsequential and two, he’s not greedy. That should not be a mindset that’s impossible to understand. It really says a lot more about you than it says about the movie, honestly.

    1. Well Joe, if you go back and listen to the episode, you can hear that I came to the same conclusion as you. An NES was a big Christmas gift for me one year too, but I somehow managed to grasp, that yes, the Phantom was wealthy, and had precious stones to spare to pay for a cabby’s services.

      Thanks for listening.


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