The Phantom (film)

The Phantom (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Phantom

caption = original movie poster
director = Simon Wincer
writer = Jeffrey Boam
starring = Billy Zane
Kristy Swanson
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Treat Williams
James Remar
producer = Alan Ladd, Jr.
Robert Evans
distributor = Paramount Pictures
budget = $42,000,000 (estimated)
released = June 7, 1996
runtime = 100 min.
country = Australia, United States
language = English
amg_id = 1:136233
imdb_id = 0117331

"The Phantom" is a 1996 action/adventure movie starring Billy Zane, and directed by Simon Wincer. It was based on Lee Falk's comic strip "The Phantom", about a seemingly immortal crimefighter and his fight against all forms of evil. The film is loosely based on the first two Phantom stories, "The Singh Brotherhood" and "The Sky Band", and features Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

* The Ghost Who Walks
* Slam Evil!

Plot summary

The legend of the Phantom starts when a young boy, the last survivor of a pirate attack, is washed ashore on a mysterious island called Bengalla. He swears to devote his life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms. When he grows to be a man, he adopts the identity of 'The Phantom', a masked avenger. The role of the Phantom is passed on from father to son through centuries, causing people to believe it is the same, seemingly immortal man, giving him nicknames such as "The Ghost Who Walks" and "The Man Who Never Dies".

The film tells us the story of Kit Walker, the 21st Phantom (Zane), and his attempts to prevent the rich madman Xander Drax (Treat Williams) from obtaining a weapon of doom, the Skulls of Touganda, possession of which will give him the secret to ultimate power and world domination.

In the process of tracking down the crystal skulls, the Phantom also meets his former girlfriend Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson), who proves to be an invaluable help for him. The search for the skulls becomes even more complicated for the Phantom when he discovers that one of Drax's henchmen, Quill (James Remar), is the killer of his father. The Phantom kills Quill near the climax of the film.

Appearing prominently is Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a feminist air-pirate who is apparently an ally of Drax but later converts to the Phantom's side. Sala attempts to seduce the Phantom during their first meeting, but he remains faithful to Diana.

Xander Drax eventually obtains three of the four Skulls, whose united power he demonstrates by destroying objects around him. The Phantom then reveals the skull of his ring to be the fourth and unleashes it against Drax, destroying him and the other three Skulls. Diana later returns to America in Sala's airplane, though it is suggested that she will venture back to Bengalla and marry him.


Rumours of a Phantom movie adaptation had first started to circulate when director Sergio Leone expressed his interest in the property in an interview. Leone had started to write a script and scout locations for his proposed film version of the Phantom, which he planned to be followed by an adaptation of Lee Falk's other comic strip hero, Mandrake the Magician. [] However, the project never finalized.

Joe Dante was originally attached to direct a Phantom film for Paramount Pictures in the early 1990s, and he developed a draft of the script together with Jeffrey Boam. However, when Paramount pushed the film back a year, Dante left for other commitments, and eventually ended up as one of the executive producers. Joel Schumacher was considered to direct the film, but the job was given to Simon Wincer, who had been a fan of the character since childhood.

Director Simon Wincer then cast Billy Zane, who had recently won praise for his work as a psychopath in "Dead Calm". Zane, a fan of the comic strip, won the part after competition from Bruce Campbell and actor Kevin Smith. After his casting, he feverishly pumped iron for over a year and a half to get the right muscular look of the Phantom. He would also study the character's body language in comic strip artwork, carefully imitating it in his performance. A Batman-like costume with moulded muscles was made for him to wear, but by the time filming started, Zane was so beefed up that he did not need it.

The film features several elements from Lee Falk's first two Phantom stories, "The Singh Brotherhood" and "The Sky Band". Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays Kabai Sengh, leader of the Sengh Brotherhood (the name of the brotherhood was changed from Singh to Sengh in the movie, to avoid offending people named Singh), and Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Sala, leader of the Sky Band, a group of female criminal air-pirates. The more realistic plots of Falk's original stories were dropped in favour of an adventure tale that featured the supernatural "Skulls of Touganda". Falk's story "The Belt", where the Phantom fights the killer of his father, was also a major influence on the story.

Deleted scenes

Many scenes developing the romance between the Phantom/Kit Walker and Diana Palmer were cut in order to make the film more fast paced. Many of the scenes took place in the Deep Woods of Bengalla. An action scene featuring the Phantom wrestling a lion and one with him fighting a snake were also cut. A scene with the Phantom and his horse Hero rearing in the sunset was cut out of the film, but shown at the end of the 1996 A&E Phantom documentary, "The Phantom: Comic Strip Crusader".


The movie suffered the same fate as two other period-piece comic book/pulp adaptations at the time, "The Shadow" and "The Rocketeer", and did not fare very well at the box office in the US. Reviews were mixed, with Roger Ebert calling it one of the best looking movies he had ever seen. [ [ :: :: Reviews :: The Phantom (xhtml) ] ]

In spite of the film's failure, a new movie about the Phantom is under development by Hyde Park Entertainment and Baldwin Entertainment Group, called "The Ghost Who Walks", though no release date has been confirmed. However, it aims to distance itself from the 1996 film, and provide an updated take on the character.Fact|date=April 2008

equel rumours

September 6 2008, syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith wrote that Paramount was putting a sequel into development, with Billy Zane returning to play the title role, due to the good VHS and DVD sales of the first film. []


A novelization of the film was written by Rob MacGregor, author of many novels featuring Indiana Jones. It included a more detailed look at the backstory of the characters and the origin of the Phantom, and also several scenes which were omitted from the final cut of the movie.


The Palmers' butler is named Falkmoore. This name is derived from Lee Falk, the creator of "The Phantom", and Ray Moore, "The Phantom"'s first artist.


To coincide with the premiere of the film, the Phantom was used as a part of the Got Milk? campaign, based on the character often being seen drinking milk in the comic.

Shooting locations

The movie was shot on location in The USA, Australia, and Thailand. Hugh Hefner, creator of "Playboy" magazine, a fan of the Phantom comic strip, allowed the filmmakers to use his Playboy Mansion as the home of the wealthy Palmer family.


External links

*imdb title|id=0117331|title=The Phantom
*amg title|id=1:136233|title=The Phantom
* [ Roger Ebert review]
* [ Time Out review]
* [ Billy Zane talks about The Phantom]
* [;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;holdingType=;page=0;parentid=;query=Number%3A434421;querytype=;rec=0;resCount=10 The Phantom at the National Film and Sound Archive]

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