Billy Donovan arrives looking for his sister's killer. When he hires on at the Halloran ranch where the mysterious Phantom has killed all the hands, it's not long before the Phantom shoots him.



(original story), (screen adaptation) (as Earl Snell)

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Cast overview:
Billy Donovan
Sheila Bromley ...
Jean Halloran (as Sheila Manors)
Ted Adams ...
Karl Hackett ...
Tom Jackson
Hal Price ...
Jim Day
Nelson McDowell ...
Doc Simpson
Henchman Dan (as Charlie King)


In a remake of 1932's "Night Rider", which was later adapted into 1940's "The Range Busters", Arizona cowhand Billy Donovan comes to a Texas town and gives sharp-shooting exhibitions in his guise as an ammunition salesman for the Gigantic Shell Company, but is in reality searching for the killer of his brother-in-law who also caused the death of his sister. Bill meets Jean Halloran, who has received several notes signed by "The Phantom" ordering her to vacate the Double Bar-A ranch near an abandoned gold mine. The only other occupant on the ranch is Tom Jackson, her stepfather, who is a cripple, with both legs paralyzed. Billy also learns that Salazar, the town's most noted shot, is looking for him. Investigating the mine, Billy falls down the shaft, is knocked senseless but recovers and follows a figure through the mine who climbs up through a trap door. The trap door leads to Jackson's bedroom. He learns that Jackson is a sleep-walker who can walk when sleeping but is crippled when ... Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


WITS AND COURAGE AGAINST OUTLAW CUNNING! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 March 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gespensterreiter der Prärie  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film is one of over 200 titles in the list of independent feature films made available for television presentation by Advance Television Pictures announced in Motion Picture Herald 4 April 1942. At this time, television broadcasting was in its infancy, almost totally curtailed by the advent of World War II, and would not continue to develop until 1945-1946. Because of poor documentation (feature films were often not identified by title in conventional sources) no record has yet been found of its initial television broadcast. It's earliest documented Post-WWII telecasts took place in Los Angeles Monday 25 April 1949 on KNBH (Channel 4) and in New York City Sunday 9 October 1949 on the DuMont Television Network's WABD (Channel 5) See more »


Remade as The Range Busters (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

Decent Western
27 October 2015 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Desert Phantom (1936)

** (out of 4)

Billy Donovan (Johnny Mack Brown) shows up in a small town looking for his sister's murderer but he ends up working on a ranch after being asked by Jean (Sheila Bromley). Pretty soon Billy is trying to figure out who the mysterious Phantom is.

DESERT PHANTOM is a remake of the 1932 Harry Carey film THE NIGHT RIDER and it appears this was remade yet again in 1940 as THE RANGE BUSTERS. This version here isn't nearly as good as the 1932 film but there are a few worthy elements that make it worth viewing if you enjoy these types of Westerns. For starters, the film throws in a good mystery (as long as you haven't seen the original) and I think fans of that genre should enjoy this too.

Johnny Mack Brown appeared in countless Westerns but I think it would be a lie if you called him a good actor. He certainly had a certain image that worked well on the screen but performance wasn't his great thing. The supporting players are all pretty bland as well. The film offers up a mix of comedy as well but this too is rather bland. DESERT PHANTOM isn't a horrible movie but it's just kind of routine.

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