Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Last night I finished my second viewing of the Columbia movie Serial THE PHANTOM and enjoyed it as much, if not more than my first. I took my time going through it as I was showing it chapter by chapter to my girlfriend. Luckily she enjoyed it almost as much as I did and really had fun with it. This was only her third serial and it was a bit of a comedown after THE ADVENTUIRES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL. I consider that fine chapter play to be the best the form ever produced with only SPY SMASHER giving it any serious competition so it was the first she saw. Going from a Republic to a Columbia would have been a little jarring so in between I showed her the first FLASH GORDON serial. Although it’s historically interesting it is also overlong and only sporadically entertaining. She liked THE PHANTOM better but I have no idea when I’ll get her to sit through another 12 or 15 chapter tale.

THE PHANTOM is a fun adventure and a pretty good adaptation of the character especially for its time. The funniest thing I noticed on this trip through was that without his dog Devil the Phantom would have been dead many times over. Again and again his faithful pet saves the day and is only stopped from doing more heroic deeds by being kept out of the way by the stupid humans! Strangely, at times Devil seems to be the only smart character on screen. Outside of saving his sometimes bumbling master from crazy death traps the energetic German Shepard finds clues, tracks bad guys and warns the jungle safari he’s traveling with of dangers. We jokingly began calling the story THE ADVENTURES OF DEVIL as he was often the real hero with the hapless Phantom just plain lucky to have him around.

As you might expect from a serial there are a few end-of-chapter cliffhanger cheats with one that they don’t even try to explain. Often these can head shakingly irritating but here it wasn't too bad. The tone is fun and has the feel of a jungle pulp novel come to life most of the time with plenty of deadly events and sly turns keeping things moving. I’ll probably end up watching this one again someday when the details have faded a bit. Pure fun!

I just wish Devil was my dog.

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