The Phantom

05/05/2021 06:35

Film: The Phantom

Year: 1931

Director: Alan James

Writer: Alan James

Starring: Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Allen Ray and Niles Welch



This is another movie that I had never heard until I was working my way through the horror movie releases from 1931 from Letterboxd. This one intrigued me with the title as it reminded me of the hero serial/film that came out. I did read the synopsis to this one before seeing it as I was trying to find something to pair up. It doesn’t make the greatest double feature for my Odyssey through the Ones, but it will work. The synopsis I’m referring to is a group of people are stalked by a masked killer in an old mansion.

We start this movie off in a prison. It appears that a criminal going by the nickname of The Phantom (Sheldon Lewis) is to be executed that day. The warden is talking to a reporter about this and they’re alerted a plane is flying low over the building again. We then see The Phantom scales the wall, jumps to a train and the plane picks him up to make his escape.

The Phantom then sends a warning to the district attorney, John Hampton (Wilfred Lucas). He wants to meet him at his house that night to kill him. John agrees and the police are going to send men over. A police sergeant of Pat Collins (Tom O’Brien) is the one assigned here.

John’s daughter is also alerted to this. She is a reporter for a local newspaper for the event section. Her name is Ruth (Allen Ray) and she is dating another reporter of Dick Mallory (Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams). Her boss though is in love with her, Sam Crandall (Niles Welch). He expresses how he feels and she tells him she is going to marry Dick. They are just hoping he gets a promotion, which falls on Sam. He has to decide what he will do here.

All of these people converge on John Hampton’s home that night. Also included are his maid, Lucy (Violet Knights), who is jumpy and she is seeing the chauffeur, Shorty (Bobby Dunn), who is much in the same vein as her. The Phantom sneaks into the house along with another guy who makes a demand of John without introducing himself. This becomes a wild night to figure out who The Phantom really is and capture him before he kills anyone. Their search will lead him to a local asylum ran by Dr. Weldon (William Gould) and us getting to meet the odd Oscar (William Jackie).

I feel that is enough to flesh out the story this movie and get you up to speed with what type of movie we are going to get. What I will start with is that this is short. It runs just over an hour and doesn’t waste any time getting into it, which is good. What I found interesting though was that I thought we were going to get an ‘Old Dark House’ type film and that is how it starts. We actually get 2 of them including the asylum where we have secret passages and what not which I do enjoy.

With this story here, I do think it is lacking some fleshing out of things. I like the idea of The Phantom, him escaping from prison and wanting to get revenge on the district attorney. It is interesting though is that John wasn’t the DA when this case was tried, but The Phantom still blames the office. There is an interesting scene with Dick that we get early on into the night where I thought we were going to have to guess who The Phantom really is. Lewis plays the role quite creepy what I like, but the reveal is just a bit abrupt and not really shocking. It also feels a bit like a cheat as well. The movie really wants more to focus on this love triangle between Dick, Ruth and Sam, but Sam really just has to make one decision whether or not to give Dick the promotion or not. It seems they’re on the right path to make a deep story, but didn’t go far enough with it.

What I will say is that the acting is fine. I can see why Williams has the nickname of Big Boy as he’s a tall guy. It does make it hard for us to believe that he’s The Phantom though. Ray is solid as his love interest, but they don’t flesh out Ruth all that much. Welch is good as the better option for Ruth despite how she feels about Dick. Sam is a solid guy for sure. Aside from that I think the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. Lewis as I said was creepy as The Phantom, Knights and Dunn bring some levity to the movie which we got a lot of in this era. I really liked Jackie as Oscar as well in his limited role.

Then really aside from that, it just leaves me the cinematography, effects and soundtrack. For the former, it is fine. Being in early cinema, we are getting static shots. What I will give credit to though is the setting. Both houses are interesting with their secret passages and what not. I’m a sucker for that. This isn’t really the type of movie that has effects, but I think the look of The Phantom is creepy. Oscar seems to be abnormally tall as well as slender and how he moves his body was interesting. Then really the soundtrack fit for what was needed. It didn’t stand out or hurt the movie for me.

This there really isn’t a whole lot to delve into this movie that is where I’m going to leave it. I do think that we have some interesting set ups here, but the movie just doesn’t go far enough in fleshing them out. I like the idea of this villain escaping from prison and trying to get revenge. The acting is solid enough. The setting and look of The Phantom are also bright spots. Aside from that, the movie is okay just lacking quite a bit for me to really enjoy this one. For that reason I’d say this is an average movie. There are good and bad aspects on both sides for me so I’m coming in the middle here.


My Rating: 5 out of 10