Bullet Points: The Phantom (1996)
There are a fair amount of pulp action/adventure movies out there. While Indiana Jones is the most popular of them, the filmmakers were most certainly inspired by those that went before them. Radio and cinema was absolutely enthralled in the early days by vigilantes and do-gooders like The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and Zorro. They were essentially all the same character in different time zones and wearing different hats. While each of them has returned in recent years to the silver screen, to varying degrees of success, not a single one of them had the honor of being played by one of the greatest living actors on planet Earth, Billy Zane.
That honor is owned by the 1996 film The Phantom. I was devastated to see that it’s score on IMDB was a measly 4.9/10, which should tell you a thing or two about the people who rate movies on IMDB (they’re communists). I felt it was up to me, and me alone, to save the world from the poor reception to which The Phantom has received over the past two decades. So in a way I’m just as much a superhero as any of those guys I mentioned. Hazaa!
Synopsis: Rich and power-seeking Xander Drax has been on a quest to find the three mystical skulls that would give him the power to control the world. Standing in his way is the heroic “Ghost who walks”, otherwise known as The Phantom. Surviving for 400 years, The Phantom has fought against evil wherever he finds it. Now The Phantom will have to team up with a beautiful young woman to stop Drax from his devastating and dastardly plot to destroy the world.
- Pulp or no Pulp: One of the things that I love most about The Phantom is that it feels very pulpy. It never gets too “gritty” like the movies today and it’s villains, while very evil, aren’t going around killing innocent people or raping kittens or anything horrible like that. All of the characters feel like they stepped through a 1930’s radio receiver and were somehow Weird Science’ed into a real people.
- Ghost: They call him the “Ghost Who Walks” but he could have also been called the “Ghost Who Talks”, “Ghost Who Runs”, “Ghost Who Sneezes”, or the “Ghost Who Eats Too Much Dairy”. Really, the fact that he’s specifically called a “Ghost Who Walks” is kind of silly. He only shares (seemingly) one characteristic with a ghost and even then no one believes he exists. I would have called him “Man Who Doesn’t Die”. It’s much more accurate.
- Drax the Destroyer: Before Batista painted over his belly button tattoo for James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Treat Williams over-acted the shit out of the character known as Xander Drax. He’s awesome. He’s exactly what a villain in a movie about a horse-riding white hero in an Asian Island paradise should be. I’ve read others bashing how ridiculous Treat is but to me he was a real treat to watch….
- Seeing a Man about a Horse: The Phantom doesn’t have any super powers but if I had to guess which power he would choose to have, it would be to make a horse appear out of thin air. That dude uses horses to do about everything and there is rarely a scene where he rides one to safety while all those idiots and their cars and planes fail to keep up with him.
- Remar-kable: Ask any scientist, James Remar can make any movie better.
- Learn Your History Bro: The second skull is found conveniently 12 minutes away from where both the villain and the hero happen to be. What I liked most about it was that it was hidden in plain sight so well because it was placed in the wrong area of the Museum of History. Billy Zane does not appreciate it when you make mistakes like that.
- Fire The Canon: If I was gonna be a pirate I would totally fire canons at people all the time. Thankfully, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa appears as the leader of the pirates brotherhood and blasts a dude 100 feet across the cave into shark infested waters. Hell yeah!
- Tagline: The line seen on the posters is “SLAM EVIL”. I haven’t checked on the dates but I was wondering if the release of this film was during the Pogs days. I definitely remember doing some serious slamming back in those days.
- This Just In: I’ve been fantasizing about getting some threeway action with Kristy Swanson and Catherine Zeta Jones for years. If any man could have pulled it off, it would have to be Billy Zane.
How would you like to get in on these extra Bullet Points?
- The Palmer mansion used in the film was actually the Playboy Mansion.
- Billy Zane worked out for over a year so he would be buff like me and not have to wear a padded suit like some jabroni.
- Zane shaved his head for all the scenes wearing the Phantom suit. The scenes where he had hair were filmed at the beginning of the shoot and then they filmed him bald as hell in the suit afterwards.
- Dolph Lundgren was considered for the lead role when the film first went into development in the late 1980’s. That could have been epic.