Sunday Matinee: The Phantom

For those who wondered where the standard issue skin-tight superhero costume came from look no further than “The Ghost Who Walks” – The Phantom.

Created by Lee Falk in 1936 as a daily adventure comic strip, The Phantom was about the 21st Phantom and his numerous adventures fighting for justice out his base of operations which was a fictional country in Africa called Bangalla. The Phantom has no superpowers just a snazzy costume and a legend that he can never die. That’s because for 21 generations, the mantle of The Phantom has passed from father to son. In 1943 The Phantom made the leap off the page and into a live action serial courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Starring Tom Tyler as The Phantom, Tyler had previous played the superhero Captain Marvel in 1941. The plot has Tyler picking up the mantle of the Phantom when his father, the current Phantom is murdered. From there it’s a race to a lost city to stop an evil doctor from launching a secret airbase. Most of the serial follows the comic closely. The costume and the skull cave are the same but in the serial the Phantom’s real name is revealed to be Geoffrey Prescott when in the comics it’s Kit Walker. That’s because at the time the name hadn’t been revealed yet in the comics.

The success of this serial would prompt Columbia Pictures to make a sequel. Halfway through production it was discovered that Columbia had lost the rights to The Phantom and they were unwilling to pay more to regain the rights. The film was renamed The Adventures of Captain Africa and the costume was changed slightly and then half the film had to be re-shot. The results were less than spectacular.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.

One thought on “Sunday Matinee: The Phantom”

  1. Mr. Tyler’s career ended prematurely, alas.
    Rheumatoid arthritis, if memory serves.
    More’s the pity. He was one of a kind.

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