Picks and Pans Review: The Phantom
Across between the spoofy fun of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the more idolatrous Batman, this colorful, snappily paced adventure yarn is adapted from Lee Falk's 60-year-old comic strip about a self-consciously mysterious superhero who wears purple leotards and fights evil with his wits, a pistol and a pet wolf, Devil. Here, the Phantom (Zane) vies with Treat Williams's bad guy to find skulls that generate a mysterious power.
While writer Jeffrey Boam (Raiders of the Lost Ark) doesn't show much sense of humor, he does stay true to Falk's concept, setting the story in 1938 and using only low-tech gadgetry. The athletic and well-conditioned Zane makes an intrepid action hero, while love interest Swanson, as inexpressive as she is pretty, recalls Jean Rogers, the memorably vapid heroine of Buster Crabbe's '30s Flash Gordon serials. Williams's high-pitched voice and theatrical gesturing make him less than menacing. (PG)