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Desert Phantom (1936)

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:
Jean Halloran (as Sheila Manors)
Karl Hackett ...
Tom Jackson
Jim Day
Doc Simpson
Dan - Henchman (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 <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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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 1945-46. 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

Aside from one terribly written character, an interesting and highly enjoyable western.
17 October 2013 | by See all my reviews

I have always enjoyed B-western stars like Johnny Mack Brown and Tim McCoy because they were NOT super-handsome nor did they sing. They were pretty much the antithesis of folks like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry because they seemed more real to me. However, I must also admit that in the case of Brown, an awful lot of his films were rather poor because of the writing. Fortunately, this is NOT the case with "Desert Phantom". Aside from one stupidly written character, the film is a winner.

The film begins with Brown playing a traveling ammunition salesman. His routine is to go into western towns dressed as an Eastern dude and put on a shooting exhibition. However, in this particular town, a pretty lady is so impressed by his shooting skills that she offers to hire him, as she's had some unknown phantom shooting folks on her ranch! She hopes he's able to get to the bottom of all this.

While eventually there is the big showdown and you learn why all these shootings have occurred, there is a very odd diversion in the form of the lady's step-father. He is among the strangest characters I've ever seen and his story simply is baffling--and is a case of a writer really missing the mark. See the film and you'll understand what I mean. HOWEVER, the rest of the movie is quite exciting, has some excellent twists and is memorable because it gives Brown a chance to show just how good he could be in the lead. Well worth your time.

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