In Turkey, The Phantom is known as Kizil Maske, or The Red Mask, but I regret to inform you that at this time I have not been able to acquire copies of any of the three Turkish Phantom movies. Yep, that’s right, there were three of them – and just to confuse you (well it confused me) – two of them were called ‘Kizil Maske’ and were released in 1968.
But fear not, dear reader. Harnessing the awesome power that is TarsTarkas.NET here’s two snippets from his reviews of Kizil Maske.
This entry was produced, directed, and written by Çetin Inanç, the protege of Yilmaz Atadeniz (who gave world the Kilink films.) Inanc went on to produce a whole ton of Turkish films, both craptacularly awesome superhero fair like this, and more modern stuff that includes violent action films.
Kizil Maske translates to Red Mask, in case you were wondering. Remember how in old serials fights would break out all the time randomly, and last like five minutes? That’s pretty much this film. Long fights, lots of manly action, and Turkish men being men. No subtitles, either, because who needs those? At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinkin’ subtitles! It is not like you need a flow chart to follow the plot: The bad dudes are bad, and the Phantom punches them for an hour or so. The end.
And from the other Kizil Maske, which was directed by Tolgay Ziyal:
The night club singer is in the bathtub covered in bubbles, scrubbing away! Oh, to be Mr. Bubble back in 1968 Turkey… Kizil Maske is in costume and leaps onto the walls to go all voyeur on her. So Kizil Maske is an uncontrollable sex fiend now? He looks around her place, spies on her in the tub and out of it. She isn’t upset in the slightest that he is there. talks to him in a towel as he lies on her bed. This section has some very jumpy cuts….it is possible there was actual nudity at some point, but it is all chopped out, and maybe lost forever. Turkey!!! The lounge singer calls for “Champagne” from “room service,” which we all know is just some goons who come up – Kizil Maske gets the drop on them, but the fight drags on. The 1960?s Batman theme plays! Groovy.
For more Phantom-ey goodness, and information on Kizil Maske, but sure to head over to TarsTarkas.NET and check out BOTH reviews.
Here’s a chunk of the action, uploaded to youtube by Mr Violenta. Finding this Youtube clip delighted me no end. Enjoy.
Here’s a brief synopsis courtesy of Turkishcult.blogspot.com
One of the most important diamonds in the world, the Nairobi Diamond is stolen by Octopussy’s gang in Istanbul. When Phantom (Ismet Erten) hears this news, he comes to Istanbul to retrieve the diamond from Octopussy and his gang.
Country: United States Director: Paolo Barzman Starring: Ryan Carnes, Sandrine Holt, Cameron Goodman, Jean Marchand, Isabella Rossellini, Cas Anvar, Ron Lea, Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles Writers: Charles H. Knauf, Daniel Knauf Music: Michel Corriveau
There’s an old jungle saying, ‘never throw the baby out with the bath water’. And unfortunately that is just what this series does. There is some argument that The Phantom, as a character has become dated, and as such needs to be modernised to make him relevant for the audiences of today. And I can accept that, but this mini-series doesn’t update The Phantom. It creates a new character and gives him The Phantom’s name. I cannot see the point of acquiring the rights to The Phantom character and then altering him so much that he no longer resembles the original character at all. If the producers wanted to make a modern, hi-tech adventure story, that’s all well and good, and on that level this series may have worked, but as a Phantom piece, it is an abject failure – in fact, I’ll go further than that – it’s a bloody disgrace.
Uploaded to Youtube by: ngvietbo
The series starts nineteen years previously, in New York, with a grating car chase. It’s not grating because the cars grind together, but due to the way it was filmed. A woman, named Diana Walker, with her son named Kit in the back of her vehicle, are being chased by another vehicle with two black clad gunmen. Gunfire is being exchanged. The editing is so abrasive and jarring it is almost impossible to work out what is actually happening. The strobing neon colour scheme doesn’t help either.
On her finger she has an elaborate signet ring, and Kit has a medallion around his neck with a skull on it. Running out of road, she drives the car into a river, and the car goes down. The goons who were chasing her get out of their vehicle and scan the water for survivors. They see no one. However, the young boy Kit has managed to hide himself, unobserved, in a tyre hanging at the waters edge.
When we next meet Kit, he has grown up – and is a Columbia law student and is calling himself Christopher Moore (Ryan Carnes). Chris, it seems is a mad free-running fool – or into parkour, for those of you who speak French. With a buddy, Jordy (Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles), filming him, Chris has accepted a challenge to cross a portion of New York in twelve minutes. Free running action happens to loud rock soundtrack as credits roll. Man, I wish I had chosen to watch District 13 rather than this. But I digress. The credits hadn’t even finished and I wanted to turn it off and play in the cutlery drawer.
So the free running continues, and Chris does some death-defying leaps, and of course, Jordy falls and injures himself. An Ambulance arrives with a paramedic named Renny (Cameron Goodman), who just so happens to be a foxy lookin’ gal – and, who will become important later in the story. Also the police arrive, and Chris is arrested and taken away.
However, Renny’s father happens to be a cop (Ron Lea) and she convinces her father to have Chris released. But things aren’t so rosy on the homefront for Chris. His parents aren’t happy about their law student son being arrested.
Meanwhile in Connecticut, a van is parked outside the home of on homemaker, Bethany Anne Gardner. She is under surveillance by a group called Tivkom. Through her digital set-top box, Tivkom, under the leadership of Dr. Bella Lithia (Isabella Rossellini), send a special encoded message to her, which she sees on her TV screen while she is preparing a chocolate cake. For fans of the television series Chuck, think of a poor man’s Intercept – except with her knowledge she doesn’t do good. Instead, she adds a deadly amount of ant-killer to the cake she is making. Later, her new found cookery skills claim nine lives at a PTA meeting.
In Switzerland the Singh Brotherhood, under the command of Raatib Singh (Cas Anvar) are concerned that a new leader, Ben David, will bridge a gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis and create peace in the middle east – they are also briefed on the Dr. Lithia’s new project. Yes, she’s a baddie. In reality though, I don’t know what Isabella is doing in this crap.
Anyway Chris and Renny become like an item, but one night after walking her home, some goons manhandle Chris into a black van; place a black bag on his head and take him to the river side – where the car went over the edge all those years ago. There, a man in a black hat and coat, Abel Vandermaark (Jean Marchand ) explains that Chris was adopted after being found scavenging for food in Chinatown. How did they track him down after all these years? After being arrested after his parkour stunt, a routine DNA test had him flagged on the computer.
Vandermaark explains that he is a member of a International Covert Intelligence and Law Enforcement agency called Bpaa Thap, which was established by one of Chris (now to be known as Kit)’s ancestors. He also explains that the men that killed Kit’s mother are still alive – and here’s the clincher, ‘the world needs him to assume the mantle of his forefathers.’
Kit, naturally enough is confused, and refuses Vandermaarks offer to join in the fight against evil. However when he returns home, he find that evil has begun to fight him. His adopted parents have been killed by members of the Singh Brotherhood who are also now on to him.
The two assassins, who killed his parents, are also waiting for Kit and attempt to kill him too. But he alludes them and makes his way to Vandermaark’s hotel. Vandermaark once again asks Kit to join Bpaa Thap and fight evil. This time, he reluctantly agrees. His reluctance stems from the fact that he must step away from his old life – and never contact anyone he knew again.
A jet whisks him to the island of Bengalla – and we finally get a hint of jungle. And the show finally starts acknowledging the Phantom’s roots. Kit’s lineage is explained to him, and the iconic Phantom suit is revealed. However, in the US, as a favour to Renny, her father starts looking into the disappearance of the Moore family. And this brings him to the attention of the Singh brotherhood, who instigate a plan to silence him. Also the Singh Brotherhood, with the aid of Dr. Lithia’s Tivkom ‘flicker’ technology step up their plan to assassinate Ben David, the diplomat who may stop the conflict in the Middle East.
After some Phantom training, where the journals of his ancestors are presented to him, along with the crappest Phantom suit ever, Kit sneaks back to the US to warn Renny’s father. In the process, he stumbles onto a Singh Brotherhood attempt to kill the detective. The attempt fails, but alerts Kit to some kind of ‘mind control’ device being utilised by his enemies.
The actors in this series aren’t too bad. Ryan Carnes and Cameron Goodman are pretty charismatic, almost managing to sell this mash up of the old and the new. But that is a big ask, particularly for Ryan Carnes who, as The Phantom, is lumbered with a suit that hides his eyes. It’s had to be emotive when all the audience can see is your mouth. Isabella Rossellini comes off the worst in the acting stakes. Her role is that of the misunderstood scientist working for the twisted megalomaniac. And we all know what happens to the scientist in shows like this. She’s not a vamp, or a femme fatale, but a simple misguided boffin.
The direction in the action scenes is stale, creating little visual excitement, and the stylised flashbacks are dreadful. The fight choreography is adequate, but once again that bloody suit doesn’t make for free flowing movement. It’s more like watching Robocop crashing through walls, than the Phantom moving lithely and freely through the jungle. Thankfully the famed ‘skull ring’ is shoe horned into the story, and I was pleased to see that they retained the mark it left on the faces of the men who The Phantom punches.
If this series wasn’t The Phantom I may not have been so harsh on it. If it had been called The Young Avenger, or some such, I may have let it slide over me. I will have still griped about the suit, as it is an actors (and a super heroes) worst nightmare for conveying movement and emotion; but I wouldn’t have the inbuilt affection for the character’s appearance. I guess one of the biggest hurdles when updating a series featuring a costumed superhero, is how to present the costume. And it’s in this department that this version of The Phantom really fails (have I stressed this enough?). I understand the necessity to update, but what is presented does not even project a semblance of The Phantom. People laughed many years ago, when George Clooney, as Batman, had a costume with ‘Bat nipples’. However, the character was still recognisable as Batman – the biggest failing of the movie, was that it ‘sucked’. But Batman was still Batman. But this is not The Phantom – he’s like a purple Robocop. As The Phantom, the show’s makers have crossed over the line and in the end sabotaged the very thing they set out to make. It’s a shame really, because I believe The Phantom has a place in the 21st Century.
The Great Web of Spidera is a Phantom story from 1965. The tale starts with an oil geologist, named Eliot, and his pilot flying over the Bengali jungles when they encounter a severe storm and are blown off course. Flying low to spot landmarks, Elliot spies a lion trapped and struggling in a giant spider’s web. Due to the dense foliage, they cannot land, however, Elliot manages to take a photograph. When they are back in civilisation, Elliot takes the photo to a natural history museum. At the Museum Dr Kavaba, the director, explains that the only web spinners in the world are spiders and to make a web large enough to catch and hold an 800 pound lion, the spider would have to be as big as a human. Mmmmmm!
That night at the Explorers Club, Eliot brags about his find, but the other explorers are sceptical, suggesting his photo is just a trick of the light. The only way to Elliot can prove what he saw is to go back into the jungle. So he mounts an expedition to do just that. Accompanying him on the mission is Lady Priscilla Drew, a well-known explorer herself.
An amphibious aircraft lands on a River and drops Elliot and Lady Priscilla off. Then they head off into the jungle. Within no time our intrepid explorers stumbled into a giant web and are trapped.
Meanwhile the pilot of the amphibious craft, rather than return to civilisation, chooses to return to the river to wait for Elliot and Lady Priscilla. However as he tries to move the plane safely to shore the propeller is broken. Then the plane starts to drift along the river towards a raging waterfall. As the plane gets closer to the waterfall the pilot tries to jump free, but the door is jammed. Trapped, he goes over the edge of the waterfall in the plane.
Luckily for the pilot, The Phantom happens to be passing by, and leaping from Hero (his horse), dives into the raging, foaming, water at the foot of the waterfall. Swimming down, he pries open the door, and drags the pilot to safety.
Later, the pilot rambles incoherently about the expedition, and giant spiders. The Phantom does not know what to make of this. When the pilot has recovered, he explains the story of the giant spider web and Elliot and Lady Priscilla’s attempt to find it. The Phantom rides off on his horse to investigate and possibly assist.
The Phantom picks up the expedition’s trail and follows, and naturally enough, he too gets caught up in a gigantic web. Even the stout heart of the Phantom skips a beat when he sees a giant furry creature moving towards him through the undergrowth.
The Great Web of Spidera is everything a good Phantom adventure should be. All the cliches are intact. We have a doofus explorer – in over his head, a damsel in distress, and some unknown jungle horror for the Phantom to overcome. Is it a giant spider? To say more would constitute a spoiler, so I’ll refrain from outlining more of the plot. But the story contains cannibals, with large cooking pots, and skeleton gods – who must be appeased.
I guess by today’s graphic novel standards, The Phantom comics are a bit crude and simple. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It is purely story telling from another age – when the world was a simpler place (or at least was portrayed that way in the media). But none-the-less, despite their limitations, the stories still excite and entertain – and that in its own way, is the highest recommendation.
By Lee Falk and Ray Moore (and Winston McCoy)
Originally published: 29th December 1946 – 29th June 1947
Any look at The Phantom would not be complete without a look at the comic strip where it all began. The 12 Tasks is the oldest story I have, and I thought it was a good place to start.
This story doesn’t have the famous ‘For those who came in late…’ intro, which recounts the legend of The Phantom, so if you’re not familiar with The Phantom’s adventures, this is probably not the ideal one to start with. But none-the-less, the story set up is simple enough. The Phantom is away on business, and Diana Palmer has adjourned to the Bengali Coast for some relaxation and a swim. At the same time, Prince Pepe, Potentate of Ptjar is hosting a beauty pageant. The winner is to become his wife. As Diana is in a swim suit, she is mistaken as one of the pageant contestants, and is crowned the winner. She is now expected to marry Prince Pepe. Naturally, she claims it is all a misunderstanding and heads off, as she has no desire to marry the Prince.
The Prince however, has other ideas and arranges for some of his thugs to kidnap her. She is smuggled to Ptjar where the Prince attempts to force her to marry him. She refuses and constantly humiliates him in public. She warns the Prince, when her beau, The Phantom turns up, he is going to be in big trouble.
Instead, the Prince interprets this to mean that she will not marry him while The Phantom is still alive, so he sets up a trap. When the Phantom does indeed arrive, he is captured, and the Prince hands down a challenge. If The Phantom can complete twelve tasks, he will release Diana. If The Phantom fails, then he will be dead (or will be killed), and Diana will have no choice but to marry the Prince. Or so the Prince believes. Diana is not actually present when the bargain is struck, and even if The Phantom was killed I can’t see her marrying the Prince. But that’s not really important. The setup is, and that’s now complete. The Ghost Who Walks has to perform twelve life threatening tasks to free his beloved Diana.
These tasks include bringing a nine-foot tall bandit to justice, ridding a river of its piranha fish, best a tribe of vicious mountain apes, and ridding the bay of sharks. Of course, The Phantom succeeds, but you knew that.
This story originally played out over sixth months, which is a very different way to read the story compared to reading it compiled into one issue, and in this format, the middle tasks are extremely truncated, limited to just one or two panels. This wouldn’t be as noticeable if it were presented in a weekly format, as the story would still take its time to play out.
Due to the nature of this story, starting with the kidnapping of Diana Palmer first, and then The Phantom joining the story later, many of the recognised Phantom elements, such as the skull cave, the pygmy Bandar are missing. Also his skull ring is not really put to effect. He punches a few adversaries over the course of his challenges, but none of them end up sporting the sign of the skull on their cheek.
This story while enjoyable, has quite substantial plot holes, especially relating to why The Phantom would allow himself to be used by Prince Pepe. And this is even more noticeable at the end, after The Phantom has succeeded. If Pepe was such a snivelling, cheating little weasel, why did he honour his promise allow Diana to go free. He could have had The Phantom killed afterwards, just as easily as he could during the challenges. And if he was a toothless tyrant, then at any time, The Phantom could have stopped participating in the challenges, whalloped the Prince and then rode off with Diana. It’s not quite all that black and white – but none-the-less there are some severe questions about each of the characters motivation in this story.
I don’t think this one of the great Phantom tales of adventure, but thankfully there are so many others that it is easy to move onto another one, which I am sure will deliver a healthy dose of the kind of jungle mayhem I am after.
Country: United States Director: B. Reeves Eason Starring: Tom Tyler, Jeanne Bates, Kenneth MacDonald, Joe Devlin, Frank Shannon, and Ace the Wonder Dog as Devil. Music: Lee Zahler Screenplay: Leslie Swabacker, Morgan Cox, Victor McLeod, Sherman L. Lowe
Based on characters created by Lee Falk and Ray Moore
Even in my lifetime, the movie experience has changed a lot. As I have often talked about, most of my early film watching experiences were at the local drive in. Everything was a double feature, and if it was a children’s program there was even a Warner Brothers cartoon or two. At cinemas, it was similar, but it wasn’t always a double feature. If the feature attraction was long, instead there would often be a series of shorts before the main feature. The thing back then was, that going to the movies was a three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half hour event. It was almost a day trip. Now-a-days you get a few quick adverts, a few quick trailers of coming attractions, and then it’s straight into the main feature. Then you’re out of there. Cinema chains don’t want customers loitering around. They want a new crowd in, and the next showing to commence. That way they make more money.
Due to my age, I have no first hand experience of the cinema experience in the 1940s and ’50s, however it would appear that it too was a big event, with shorts, cartoons and newsreels providing the pre-show entertainment. Also there were the regular movie serials. I must admit I have not watched too many old cliff-hanger serials. In fact, the only one I can recall is Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, with Buster Crabbe. When I watched it for the first time, I was very under-whelmed. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t appreciate the shoddy effects and the lame cliff hangers that were telegraphed way ahead of time. Oh look, Ming has a bottomless pit. I wonder if Flash is going to fall into it? Well yeah, of course Flash is going to fall into it. That’s why they put it in the episode in the first place – as an obstacle for Flash to overcome – and of course, to provide a cliff-hanger ending, that would hopefully have the viewing public returning to the cinema next week to see the resolution.
Of course, television took over for the old fashioned serials – and if you happen to be of the same generation as me, then the Adam West Batman series is the perfect example of the old style cliff-hanger adapted for television. Who can forget the announcer at the end of every second episode urging viewers to tune in ‘…same bat time, same bat channel’ to see how the caped crusader escaped from the predicament he found himself enmeshed in.
So in this day and age, watching a serial like The Phantom can be a bit of a chore. But, taking into account the way it was originally intended to be shown – at weekly intervals – this serial isn’t too bad at all, and locks down most necessary Phantom lore.
As the serial starts, jungle drums tell the leaders of all the tribes to meet with The Phantom at his home in the Tonga village. In the centre of the village is a large skull adorned, stone throne. The chieftains gather, and then in a puff of smoke, The Phantom appears. But this Phantom seems kind of old and arthritic. However, this doesn’t stop him from standing and proclaim that ‘evil’ has taken a foothold in the area. But before he can finish his lecture on ‘evil’, a native fires a blow dart which buries itself in The Phantom’s neck. The Phantom simply pulls the dart out, and then tells the chieftains to stay put and await his return. He then disappears in another puff of smoke.
The Phantom, as you may have guessed, is dying, and sends for his son Geoffrey Prescott (Tom Tyler) to join him in the Tonga village. It is believed that Geoffrey is in America, studying at university. In fact he is far more closer than that. He is in the nearest village, Sai Pana, where he is preparing to be a part of an expedition into the interior with Professor Davidson and (possibly more important) his niece, Diana Palmer (Jeanne Bates).
Prescott receives word that he is required and leaves the expedition and heads off to join his father. His father is all but dead, and with his dying words passes on the mantle of The Phantom. Prescott dons the suit and begins to take up where his father left off.
But there is a lot going on in the jungle. Firstly, when Prescott left Professor Davidson’s expedition, he left a message with the hotel owner, Singapore Smith (Joe Devlin) to be passed along. It wasn’t, and now Prescott is a wanted man, for theft. That no doubt, doesn’t make sense to you. Let me back track and see if I can explain it. You see Professor Davidson is searching for the lost city of Zoloz, and to find it, he has acquired several pieces of a seven-piece map, that appear to be carved from ivory. Upon his arrival in Sai Pana, Davidson met with Singapore Smith, who has another two piece of the map. Smith gives Davidson his pieces, but even with their combined pieces, there is still one crucial piece missing. Smith allows Davidson to keep his pieces, to aid in the quest.
However, Singapore Smith isn’t really a good guy. Giving Davidson his pieces was just a ruse to avert suspicion from him, and that evening he arranges for his goon to break into Davidson’s hotel room and steal all the pieces. This is the point in the story where Prescott receives the call to come to his father’s side. The next morning, as far as Davidson is concerned, his map has been stolen, and Prescott has disappeared. Therefore Prescott must have stolen the map.
But there is more. In Sai Pana village, there is a local doctor named Max Bremmer (Kenneth MacDonald) and he too, is up to no good. In fact he was behind the death of the last Phantom. It was one of his goons, who in black face, and posing as a native, fired the dart that ultimately killed The Phantom. Bremmer’s scheme goes beyond mere theft. He has an ambitious plan to construct a secret airbase at the lost city of Zoloz. I know, I know, that doesn’t really make sense. You see, the lost city of Zoloz is not so lost. Bremmer knows where it is, and goes to extreme lengths to ensure that its location remains a secret.
Cartographic logic is also in short supply. When watching the serial, I was never sure on which continent The Phantom’s adventures were taking place. There’s hint of Africa, naturally, but it could equally be in South America. Then there’s the Tiger – could it be India? Then there’s the villain, Tartar, who could come straight from the Arabian Nights. But don’t worry about little details like that. This is a cliff hanger adventure serial, and little details like logic should never get in the way of a rollicking good time.
And that’s the key to this series. Logic is not important. Adventure is. The serial is fast paced, full of treachery and dare I say it, skullduggery. There are cliff hangers at the end of each episode, featuring such reliable genre tropes such as, quicksand, crocodiles, lions, tigers, a giant killer gorilla, rock falls, a trial by fire, and hand grenades – and of course much, much more. Every fight The Phantom gets into, he seems to be outnumbered, usually by a majority of four-to-one. Generally he gives as good as he gets, but eventually he gets knocked down and this leads to the next cliff hanger.
Of course, for fans of The Phantom, the big question is; just how Phantom-ey is this serial. The answer is ‘very’. Most of the elements from the newspaper and comic book stories have been successfully transposed to this serial. It’s all there – the skull cave, the skull ring (and the mark it leaves on the faces of those that The Phantom hits), there’s Devil, and of course as I have have outlined, the father to son lineage of The Phantom. Diana Palmer is in the story as a love interest, and The Phantom even adopts the iconic Kit Walker persona, dressed in a trench-coat with dark glasses (I know, Kit Walker is his real name, not an adopted persona – let’s just go with it). All this story needs is ‘speech bubbles’ and it would be spot on.
As I implied at the top, The Phantom movie serial was never created to be watched in one sitting. So watching to whole series and its constant repetition, in one fell swoop is a task that few viewers will have the patience for. However, if you are prepared to break the series into a few chunks (maybe 5 sittings of three episodes each – totaling the whole fifteen episodes), then I think most people could and would enjoy this series. Even the budgetary restriction on the series aren’t as glaringly obvious as something like Flash Gordon – which had to convey spaceships, new worlds and robots. All The Phantom needs is a jungle and he’s away.
The Phantom is old-fashioned, old-time entertainment. If you consider yourself a Phantom fan, then this serial is well worth seeking out.
Although it should not effect enjoyment of this series, it must be noted that in Chapter 11, The Emerald Key, the original audio track appears to have been lost or damaged, and actors have redubbed the soundtrack. It is a minor inconvenience.