Phantom (1931)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 61 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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A largely forgotten comedy-chiller in the tradition of The Cat and the Canary, The Phantom, from Poverty Row company Artclass Pictures Corp., emerges as one of the loonier films of the early sound era. Guinn Williams, sans his nickname "Big Boy" and the usual B-Western regalia, stars as nervy reporter Dick Mallory who, along with Ruth (Allene Ray), the daughter of the district attorney (Wilfred Lucas), goes in search of the Phantom, a masked killer whose recent jailbreak is alarming the citizenry. They find him running an insane asylum (a rather appropriate place for a deranged killer), but not before a series of encounters with Swedish-accented domestics and the usual thick-headed police officers. It is all played for laughs and with that in mind, the film is much better than its reputation. Williams is quite good and even Ray, a silent serial queen in her final film, manages to deliver her few lines with some conviction, especially in lieu of the fact that sound is supposed to have destroyed her career. Through it all runs veteran bogeyman Sheldon Lewis, for no other purpose, apparently, than to give the audience the expected chills. Contrary to popular wisdom, Lewis does NOT play the Phantom; the role of the killer is instead enacted by veteran B-Western villain William Gould. Director Alan James also wrote the screenplay under his real name, Alvin J. Neitz.



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