Instead of "Darkest Africa", our Saga is set in mythical Southeast Asia, not unlike Thailand or Viet-Nam.It might be shown in a pilots anthology like this.....
......CANCELLED TV PILOTS THEATRE presents THE PHANTOM" being a filmed adaptation of the Daily and Sunday Newspaper Comic Strip created by Lee Falk (Writer) and Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy & others (Illustrating Cartoonists) and owned and distributed by the Hearst Corporation's King Features Syndicate.
FEATURING Roger Creed as The Phantom & Mr. Walker, Paulette Goddard as Mrs. Harris, Lon Chaney, Jr. as "Jed", Reginald Denny as Commissioner Mallory, Allan Nixon as 'Doc' Sanders, Chaino as 'Chaino', Richard Kiel as 'Big' Mike, Morgan Lane as Lt. Hartwell, Robert Curtis as 'Johnson', Glen Marshall as 'Deek', Ewing Miles Brown as 'Jim', Marilyn Gilbert as Diana with Pup-Dog Devil as 'Devil, the Phantom's Doggie, Bob Guthrie as a "Screw" (slang for a Prison Guard) and a Cast of teens!
WRITER Lee Falk along with Artist Ray Moore collaborated to give us THE PHANTOM, a Jungle Adventure Comic Strip (not a Comic Book*, Schultz!) The feature was done for King Features Syndicate, who owned the copyright and distributed same through the many Hearst owned papers and in those other dailies who paid the required fee$ to publish the illustrated stories of "The Ghost Who Walks" in their comics section.**
THE Daily b & w Strip bowed in 1936 with the Sunday Color Comics version for their "Puck, The Comics Weekly" supplement having made its initial appearance in 1939.
PROVING to be very popular, the adventures found themselves being a coveted property to follow adventure comic strips such as DICK TRACY, FLASH GORDON, BUCK ROGERS, RED BARRY, TARZAN, TIM TYLER'S LUCK, DON WINSLOW and JUNGLE JIM to the Silver Screen of the Hollywood Serial. The Juvenile-Oriented, Saturday Matinée crowd displayed a voracious appetite for this type of fair and demanded what surely must have seemed like and unending supply of this genre.
SO in The Year of Our Lord, 1943, Columbia Pictures Serial Unit set out to give us THE PHANTOM as a 15 Chapter Cliff-Hanger Serial. Veteran serial Director, B. Reeves Eason was given the assignment "in the Chair" and "B" Western Star, former Weightlifting Champion, Tom Tyler was cast in the lead as "the Ghost Who Walks" as well as his alter ego, Geoffrey Prescott, Jeanne Bates as Diana Palmer, Kenneth MacDonald (the 3 Stooges "Mr.Slipp) as Dr. Bremmer, Frank Shannon ("Dr. Zarkov") as Professor Davidson and 'Ace' the Wonder Doggie as Devil. (also others).
THE Serial was fairly accurate in its jump from the printed page and was one of the better serials to come from Columbia.*** It was only natural that when the medium of Television began to grow, expand and seek further horizons to conquer (and devour), there was the Phantom, still going strong in the Daily and Sunday editions of our newspapers; be they metropolitan or small town.
SO, this pilot film was done and a small number of others written. Basically, it took so many of the even then tried and true elements that were put into so many a jungle epic. A fortune, a helpless damsel in distress, a "Lost City", a desperate Safari, treacherous guides, cut-throat renegades, hostile and friendly natives and of course, the Hero and Company. This opening episode was just about like that.
ITS arrival on the scene was at a time when there were several other such unsuccessful attempts at adaptations of both Comic Strip and Comic Book material features. Remember, the two are definitely not the same; although they are close relatives, First-Cousins, even.
WE had seen THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY (National Comics, 1961) that same year and an ARCHIE TV Pilot (1964) bite the dust before getting off the launch pad. There had also been a MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN ½ hour pilot made and left unsold in 1954.
SO, there had been a lively market, if at least only in the anticipatory area, for these comics adaptations. Pity they didn't at least give it a try, for it couldn't have been worse than some of the other offerings that we saw.
ONE most unusual aspect of this venture was its cast. In addition to Mr. Creed and company it was just a trifle out of the ordinary. Whereas Roger Creed, a stunt man & athlete who displayed the obvious physical attributes for the action sequences as well as adequacy in delivering his dialog.
THE cast did go beyond that standard character and "B" types that usually populated such and included former Hollywood luminaries Reginald Denny and Lon Chaney, Jr.; but also included the former Mrs. Charlie Chaplin and then current Mrs. Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard. It was a most unusual appearance; but she also did one of those SHERLOCK HOLMES Episodes with Ron Howard in the 50's; so, who knows what was up?
OUR VERDICT: This would have been okay as a kiddie adventure show, probably best done in syndication.
NOTE: * Remember, Comic BOOK and Comic STRIP are 2 different breeds of Cat!
NOTE: ** Comic Strips and other syndicated features are priced to the subscribing newspaper according to the circulation of each publication.
NOTE: *** Mr. Tom Tyler possessed an uncanny resemblance to the comic pages images of the Phantom, a quality that was all important in this bubble-gum oriented genre. It was his second outright success starring in a serial in a 2 year period; the 1st being in the title role of THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (Republic Pictures, 1941); based on Fawcett Publications' "Big Red Cheese."
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