The Phantom. The ghost who walks. The man who never dies.
The Phantom is a benevolent guardian of the jungle tribes. He is both worshiped and feared. As long as the Phantom is around the natives are peaceful.
Professor Davidson (Frank Shannon) and his niece Diana Palmer (Jeanne Bates) plan an expedition to find the Lost City of Zoloz which is reputed to house a treasure. Davidson is an archeologist and is looking for the lost city for scientific purposes. To find the lost city they need to gather together seven pieces of ivory. When placed together the pieces form a map that identifies where the lost city can be located. He has three pieces of the map. A man called Singapore Smith (Joe Devlin) has three of the pieces himself. Neither man knows the location of the seventh piece.
Doctor Bremmer (Kenneth MacDonald) is also looking for the lost city. He is a gunrunner and wants to use it as a secret airbase for an enemy faction; however, the Phantom is in the way. To remove him as an obstacle, he has The Phantom (Sam Flint) shot with a poison dart. Before he dies The Phantom sends for his son Geoffrey Prescott (Tom Tyler). Geoffrey’s father bestows upon him his heritage. Geoffrey is now The Phantom. Before his father had been injured Geoffrey had been working for Professor Davidson but when he got the telegram from his father he gave Singapore Smith a letter to give to Davidson explaining his quick departure. Singapore Smith destroys the letter.
Singapore Smith steals Davidson’s pieces of the map and blames Prescott. The seventh, and most important, piece is missing. Eventually it turns up in the possession of a tribal leader named Tartar (Dick Curtin). In order to gain the seventh piece The Phantom must wrestle Tartar's pet gorilla.
“The Phantom” was released in 1943 and was directed by B. Reeves Eason. It is a Columbia Pictures 15 chapter serial and it stars Tom Tyler. The serial is based on Lee Falk's comic strip The Phantom.
There is a bit of a learning curve for the new Phantom. At first he goes the wrong way through the jungle and ends up in quicksand but eventually he gets the hang of it. I can understand why he is referred to as the man who never dies. Not only is the mantle passed down from generation to generation but The Phantom is supposedly dispatched at the end of each cliffhanger episode only to make his way out of each predicament. Bremmer’s minions keep assuming they killed him only to be proven wrong time and time again.
The Phantom's trusty companion is a German shepherd named “Devil”, played by Ace the Wonder Dog. Granted the original Phantom had a wolf not a dog but how can you go wrong with a name like “Ace the Wonder Dog”. The gorilla, "Brutus" who fights The Phantom is played by Ray "Crash" Corrigan. The Phantom was given the alter ego Godfrey Prescott in this serial because the name Kit Walker had not yet been used in the strip. The Phantom does use the name Walker as an alter ego when he is in the village investigating.
Much of chapter 11 had to be re-dubbed by a new cast of actors, because the soundtrack on the original negative had been damaged due to age and neglect.
The serial is almost five hours long but it held my attention nicely. I found it to be entertaining. I liked the jungle setting as a change of pace from the usual outer space adventure or a city setting normally used for a superhero story.
Chapter Titles: 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