The Phantom (1996)

I forgot all about the 1996 film about The Phantom starring Billy Zane until Rob at SUPERHERO TV gave me his DVD copy to borrow. I watched the trailer, saw Billy Zane in purple tights, riding a horse through 1930s Manhattan, and put the DVD aside for a few days.

Unfortunately this movie was poorly marketed. Mistake number 1 — it was released on June 7, 1996 but it isn’t even close to being a blockbuster like Batman Begins. Mistake number 2 — the trailer is terrible and doesn’t convey the campy nature of the film.

Once I realized that The Phantom was a B-movie I started to really enjoy it. It’s actually a great film in my opinion and a lot of fun to watch.

The sets and costumes are excellent. I don’t normally pay a lot of attention this kind of detail in a film but everything from the furniture to motorcycles look very authentic. The production value is quite high but unfortunately some of the special effects were distracting.

When special effects are done well they should be invisible to the viewer. There is a scene where The Phantom is riding through the jungle, dodging bullets from the bad guys. A close-up shot shows a bullet hitting a tree and exploding into colourful fragments as if the tree was a box of Fruit Loops! I had to watch this several times, frame by frame to make sure I was seeing things correctly. Maybe this was intentional? I thought it took away from the scene.

For some reason the directory of photography chose a camera lens that gives off a really bad lens flare that looks like a blue laser. This had me confused in a few of the earlier scenes and just became annoyingly visible throughout the rest of the film.

Billy Zane as a super hero? You bet! He’s perfectly cast and hilarious! He always has a goofy grin and smart ass comment for every situation. I found myself laughing out loud several times. Treat Williams as bad guy Xander Drax is great as well.

If you passed this film over 10 years ago then it’s time to give it a second look. The DVD is anamorphic widescreen but the video quality is average. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and quite good. There’s nothing but a trailer in terms of extras but this wouldn’t prevent me from purchasing the disc. I’ll be adding this disc to my DVD library ASAP and look forward to watching it again.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:02 PM