The Phantom (1996) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Adventure
Lions Gate || PG - 100 minutes - $19.99 || February 9, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-02-08

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

B L U - R A Y

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Simon Wincer
Writer(s): Lee Falk (characters); Jeffrey Boam (written by)
Cast: Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Patrick McGoohan

Theatrical Release Date: June 7, 1996

Supplemental Material:
  • Theatrical Trailer

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 7.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

The Phantom is the 1996 movie, based on a comic strip by Lee Falk, which was supposed to send Billy Zane into A-list stardom and bring a low level franchise to Paramount. Instead, this reportedly modest $45 million budgeted pulp action adventure made a mere $17 million after a miserable $5 million opening weekend. It also opened to primarily negative critical reviews (other than Roger Ebert who gave it a 3.5/4) and equally negative buzz from movie-goers who either felt it didnít do the source material justice or that the movie just missed the mark.

Plot: The story begins as an expedition lands on the island of Bengalla, seeking the legendary skulls of Touganda. Believed to harness an energy force of immeasurable power, the skulls could spell disaster for mankind. And thatís exactly what ruthless tycoon Xander Drax (TREAT WILLIAMS) has in mind... unless one man can stop him: The Phantom (BILLY ZANE)!

Even after watching The Phantom for the first time in probably a decade, Iím still not sure what to think of it. Sure, Paul Petersí production design is fantastic realizing that 1940s era pulp style and the score by David Newman (Serenity) also is a throwback to the time period filmmakersí were after. Unfortunately, the script falls far too short and the direction couldíve been better.

Speaking of the director, the production had been looking for various people to apparently helm including Joel Schumacher (who I actually think wouldíve been suitable) and Joe Dante, who was originally slated to direct before leaving for greener pastures (probably The Second Civil War TV movie). Instead Simon Wincer, long-time television series director, took on the task of bringing an unknown character to mainstream audiences with a less-than attractive story or script.

Forget the fact that Treat Williamsí villain is nothing more than a cheese ball looking for power (*yawn*), but they do little to develop our hero and his lost love. Supposedly Wincer did film scenes between Kit (The Phantom) and Diana but the director chose to leave them on the cutting room floor in exchange for a leaner, more action-oriented summer flick. So what we got were half-baked characters and a half-assed story... nice.

As far as the casting goes, I didnít have a problem with Billy Zane especially given the material he had to work with. Physically he was perfect for the role and was believable that he could kick ass Ė even against lame and bland henchmen Ė but at the same time, I donít think he had the comedic timing either. On the female front, Kristy Swanson serves admirably in the love interest role while a Catherine Zeta-Jones before she was Catherine Zeta-Jones made a lovely henchwoman as a foe to Swansonís Diana.

Overall, I didnít think The Phantom was all that bad. Despite many issues with the screenplay and direction, I found myself moderately entertained by the costume and production designs and an admirable performance by Zane who, while might not have been the best fit for the part, still did his best with the material.


The only feature is the original theatrical trailer.


The Phantom is presented with a 2.35 aspect ratio (original AR was 2.39) and now in 1080p high-definition. As with the other recent Lionsgate catalogue releases, this one also has its share of problems with dust and scratches and yes, like the Drop Zone BD release, this too had a purplish line running vertically during one shot, this time on the left-hand side. However, other than that, I thought Lionsgate did an OK job with this transfer. Some scenes were a tad soft but others were well detailed and the color scheme and black levels throughout was well balanced.

The Blu-ray also sports a nice and evenhanded 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The biggest draw for the track is the grand score by David Newman which booms from each channel with gusto. The dialogue levels were also quite nice while the explosion during the climatic finale was nice. This isnít one of the better lossless tracks but for the filmís age, I was impressed.


The Phantom seemed to have had, at one time, some sort of polarizing effect on movie-goers, especially those fond of the source material. However, since I donít bring that baggage to the table, I looked at the film like most others in the genre and have to say that it wasnít nearly as bad as I had heard and read over the years. Is it anywhere being a good movie? Of course not, but it does deliver some moderate entertainment value and the video and audio on the Blu-ray makes this a modest recommendation once the title is below $10.