Fan Favorite Friday: “The Phantom” (1996)

Billy Zane in the 1996 film "The Phantom." (Paramount Pictures)


There was Billy Campbell as The Rocketeer in 1991. There was Alec Baldwin as The Shadow in 1994. And on June 7, 1996, there was Billy Zane as The Phantom.

Based on the masked pulp hero by Lee Falk, The Phantom is known as “The Ghost Who Walks”. Like The Green Hornet, the Phantom made his comic debut in 1936. Not only that, this defender of the Earth is also one of the precursors to Batman.  Legend was told that the Phantom can never die, but that the truth is that it has been the Walker family business for over 400 years: passing down the mantle from father to son.

The mission: to fight the ever-growing rising tide of piracy, greed, cruelty, oppression and injustice.
This time, the Phantom – aka Kit Walker – comes to the jungle of New York City to stop ruthless businessman Xander Drax (Treat Williams) and his nefarious plans to rule and dominate the world. 

Coming out months after the end of the syndicated animated half-hour Phantom 2040 (1994-96), the live-action Phantom co-starred Kristy Swanson as Diana Palmer, the love interest of the titular superhero, and future Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones two years before her breakthrough in The Mask Of Zorro opposite Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. 

Like The Rocketeer and The ShadowThe Phantom failed at the summer box office, but has developed a devoted fan following over the years, and continues to do so – for the right reasons. 

This film is a old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure of good versus evil that really deserves a second look.

“The Phantom” video by Paramount Pictures

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